SANDRA AIGNER / AIPS in FUJAIRAH:* These have been a depressing few days for Panama football. First the senior national team missed a World Cup qualifying playoff shot then the juniors went down 2-0 to Uzbekistan in the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013.
Panama played with skill and invention until they approached goal and then they were stifled by the relentless covering play of a disciplined, hard-working Uzbek team.
They might even have opened the scoring early in the second half but a fine shot out of nowhere from Milciades Molina rebounded away off the angle of keeper Sarvar Karimov’s right-hand post and crossbar.
That escape appeared to give Asian champions Uzbekistan more confidence or possibly concentrated their minds more on the need to score a goal.
Substitute Shohjahon Abbasov curled in a right-wing free kick in the 68th minute which was jabbed home by Shohjahon Abbasov. Then, eight minutes later, Rustamjon Ashurmatov volleyed home after Panama failed to clear a corner.
Monday sees the two initial Group C winners meet when Uzbekistan play Morocco while Panama will take on Croatia knowing that the losers will be already condemned to first round elimination.
Any suggestion of video technology is frowned upon by FIFA and football’s lawmakers. But Panama coach Jorge Dely Valdes intends to use video technology in a perfectly legal way to help save his team from an early exit .
After the match Dely Valdes said: “We have to improve on many things; we have to think about our next match and try to get to a win. So we will watch the videos and see what kind of changes we will do for the next match.”
Maintaining concentration for the full 90 minutes was one sphere in which Panama fell short against Uzbekistan. But the pressure of occasion was daunting for both teams.
Uzbek coach Dilshod Nureliev said: “The first match in a World Cup tournament is always hard. The players are usually nervous and here there are very young players. They have not had much experience in this kind of tournament.
“Sometimes it is very hard for them to control their emotions and to hold their focus during the 90 minutes. The game against Panama was very tough for us. Panama have a very good team and can create many problems for the other team.”
* This article appeared first on AIPSMedia.com, the website of the international sports journalists association which is running a Young Reporters course in UAE with the support of the local organising committee and FIFA