Panama midfielder Anibal Godoy admits fans dreaming of their country upsetting England and Belgium at the World Cup are in need of a reality check.
Hernan Dario Gomez’s side have qualified for their first ever World Cup, despite taking just 13 points from their 10 games in the final group, and they will meet Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions, Roberto Martinez’s Belgians and Tunisia in Russia next month.
Though they were trounced 6-0 by Switzerland in March, fans of Los Canaleros are giddy about being among the globe’s elite and the possibility of following Costa Rica’s lead four years on from their heroics.
The Costa Ricans won a group featuring previous World Cup winners England, Italy and Uruguay in Brazil and then made it through to the quarter-finals as one of the tournament’s surprise packages.
Yet Godoy, who plays his club football with MLS side San Jose Earthquakes, has tried to temper the expectation levels for fans thinking Panama, who are ranked 55th in the world, can also punch way above their weight in Russia.
“They get excited, sometimes they think beyond things – I think they do not see where we are standing,” Godoy said.
“We are a team that will learn a lot from what is coming. We’re going to face big teams, big players who play in big leagues. I think the fans should also have a little sanity.
“We want to try to give them what they want, but I think we have to be realistic.
“We are here to compete, to try in the eyes of the world, to let them know that Panama has been growing a lot in football.”
Many in Panama fear facing Belgium more than England, merely because their date with Martinez’s side comes first and their players must manage the emotions in an unfamiliar setting.
Godoy concedes he is unsure how he will feel once the talking is over and the tournament begins.
“It’s a dream that everyone wants to have – to sing the anthem either on the bench or in the starting XI,” he added.
“To hear the notes of your national anthem in the World Cup…what I’m going to feel at that moment, I do not even know. “