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By Ben James

Team: Panama

Nickname: Los Canaleros (The Canal Men)

World Cup appearances: 1(2018)

World ranking: 55

Coach: Hernán Darío Gómez

Captain: Román Torres

Player to watch: Román Torres
Captain Román Torres has cemented his place as Panama’s key player on the road to Russia. Directing the team from centre back, he was often the foundation for the team’s success and also finished as its top scorer in the second stage of qualifying with his aerial prowess. After years of winning titles in Colombia, Torres’ reputation has grown in the MLS after establishing himself as a starter for the Seattle Sounders, which won the league in 2016 and finished second a year later.

NowUC Predictor: Group stage
Panama’s road to the World Cup – their first-ever appearance at the tournament – saw them make it through the difficult Central and North American qualifying group at the expense of the United States. Having already exceeded all expectations in making the World Cup, anything other than a last-placed group finish would be a major surprise for the ageing squad.

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