Panama boss Christiansen ready for World Cup qualifying challenge

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PANAMA CITY, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Panama head coach Thomas Christiansen has warned his team will face no easy matches in the first round of FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifiers in North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Panama will begin their quest for a berth in football's flagship tournament with a clash against Barbados on March 25 followed by a duel with Dominica three days later. Both matches will be played at Estadio Felix Sanchez in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.

"There is a long and difficult road ahead," Christiansen told a news conference on Friday. "It will be more difficult than we expected, but we are ready. We have had enough time to prepare these two games and the ones that follow."

Panama, who made their first World Cup finals appearance in Russia three years ago, are favorites to win their group, which also includes Anguilla and the Dominican Republic.

Under the qualifying format established by regional confederation CONCACAF, the winners of each of the six first-round groups will play a two-legged knockout tie for a place in the last phase.

Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras have already advanced to the final round by virtue of their rankings.

"We are going into the matches with the mindset that we have to win," Christiansen said. "We know that we have to dictate terms in each match by controlling the game and creating chances."

Christiansen, a former Spain international forward, replaced Americo Gallego as Panama's head coach last July.

The next edition of the World Cup will be played in Qatar from November 21 to December 18, 2022. Enditem

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