Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez has questioned England’s World Cup staying power ahead of next month’s draw in Moscow.
Gomez – one of only two men to take three different countries to the World Cup – was Colombia’s coach at France 98 when the South Americans were beaten 2-0 by England in Lens.
The 61-year-old says he still has clear memories of David Beckham‘s stunning free-kick that day but believes England are programmed to fall short when it comes to the crunch at major tournaments.
‘I remember the game in France, particularly as a young David Beckham showed how much potential he had,’ Gomez said ahead of Panama’s friendly with Wales in Cardiff on Tuesday night.
‘But it is always the same with England when they look as if they could be one of the favourites for tournaments.
‘I’ve seen England enjoy success at Under-17 and Under-20 level recently and I watched the friendly against Germany on Friday.
‘They played very well and are always a contender to do well at tournaments.
‘But they do seem to lack something when it comes to the latter stages.’
As well as Colombia in 1998, Gomez also guided Ecuador to the 2002 finals before masterminding Panama’s march to a first World Cup appearance.
Frenchman Henri Michel, who led Cameroon, Morocco and Tunisia to respective World Cups in 1994, 1998 and 2002, is the only other coach to manage that feat.
Panama face Wales on Tuesday as part of their preparations for this summer’s tournament
Panama seized on the United States’ shock defeat to Trinidad & Tobago in the final round of matches to finish third in CONCACAF qualifying and lost the final automatic spot.
Gomez says his home country Colombia have a ‘lot more experience’ than his current charges, but he hopes November friendlies against fellow World Cup finalists Iran – a game which they lost 2-1 last Thursday – and Wales will provide his team with valuable experience.
‘It’s good for us to come up against different teams and those with a typical European style that we may not be used to,’ Gomez said.
‘We are used to playing teams from our part of the world, and playing top teams can be quite a scary proposition.
‘But we will be able to learn from these experiences when we play European teams at the World Cup.
‘I watched Wales at the Euros last year and they are a good side, but we will express the love and pride for our country in this game.’