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Panama’s first World Cup goals prove bright future ahead, says coach

Panama coach Nacho Quintana said Wednesday their first-ever World Cup goals in a 6-3 defeat to France will be a springboard to growing the game in their home nation.

The tournament minnows depart Australia with three straight losses, but they won the hearts of 40,000 fans packed into the Sydney Football Stadium with a never-say-die attitude and exuberant goal celebrations.

Quintana, who took over in 2021 and has been a driving force for equal opportunities and salaries between the men’s and women’s teams, said their debut tournament had been a success in many ways.

“We gained a lot. 40,000 people ended up cheering our team, we showed them the energy, the vibe of Panamanian football,” said the Mexican.

“The idea was to have a draw, but the goals proved that we will come back stronger than ever in four years’ time.”

One of the goals will be a contender for best of the tournament, with captain Marta Cox curling in a free kick from 30 yards after just 67 seconds to spark wild celebrations.

Panama were the 32nd and last team to seal their place at the World Cup, courtesy of a 1-0 win over Paraguay in the final qualifying tournament back in February.

Their build-up was far from perfect, including a 7-0 friendly defeat against Spain. But Quintana said they had learned a lot and it boded well moving forward.

“It is promising for the future,” he said. “It is the beginning of everything. I’m proud of what this team has done, not just the players but the technical staff and the federation.

“We have a lot of players aged 20 or 21 and playing three World Cup games is very positive.”

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