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Gabriel Torres hopes Northern Ireland test helps Panama meet England challenge

Panama are one of England’s World Cup opponents in Russia.

Panama will use Tuesday’s friendly with Northern Ireland as a yardstick for how ready they are to face England at the World Cup, striker Gabriel Torres has said.

World Cup fever has hit the Central American country ahead of their first ever participation at the premier global tournament, and over 13,000 supporters are expected at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez to attend their farewell friendly against the Northern Irish next week.

Los Canaleros will then head to Europe, and eventually Russia, where Belgium, Gareth Southgate’s England and Tunisia will be their group opponents.

That meeting with the Three Lions has led to Panama arranging friendlies with two of the other home nations as World Cup tune-ups, and after drawing with Wales in November, they are hoping Michael O’Neill’s Northern Irish side will pose a British-style challenge in Panama City.

“They are a complicated rival, a typical European team, English bred,” said Torres, who plays for Chilean side Huachipato.

“It’s going to be a team we are going to use to measure ourselves to know how we can better apply the work we’ve been doing.

“We’ve worked a lot on the physical part. We are going to be working more on tactics once we get to Europe.

“We’re going to face this game very seriously, it will be in front of our people. People want to see a show and hopefully we can deliver that.”

Panama, whose manager Hernan Dario Gomez was in charge of Colombia when England defeated them at the 1998 World Cup, have been in camp preparing for the World Cup for nearly two weeks.

There is huge excitement in the capital city for the tournament given Panama’s participation, with the sports channels seemingly playing Ramon Torres’ qualification-clinching goal on a loop.

“We have to represent it with dignity, so that all of Panama feels proud of us,” Gabriel Torres added.

“We are going to enjoy it, because it is our first World Cup, but with seriousness. We know that we can not go there to make a fool of ourselves.”

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