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Panama replaces Iran as Canada opponent in World Cup warmup

61st-ranked country will be opponent now for Sunday match in Vancouver

Panama has replaced Iran as Canada’s opponent for a World Cup prep exhibition on Sunday in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Canadian Soccer Association announced Iran as the opponent for the friendly on May 12, then canceled last week following criticism by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The new opponent was announced Tuesday.

The Canadian government says 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people killed when Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down on Jan. 8, 2020. The plane was shot by an Iranian surface-to-air missile minutes after taking off from Tehran.

Panama failed to reach the World Cup, finishing fifth in North and Central America and the Caribbean, one place below a playoff berth. Panama is ranked 61st, 40 spots below Iran, and beat visiting Canada 1-0 in the final qualifier in March, after the Canadians had clinched their first berth since 1986.

Canada plays Curaçao at Vancouver on June 9 and is at Honduras on June 13, both in the CONCACAF Nations League. No. 38 Canada opens the World Cup Group F in Qatar against second-ranked Belgium on Nov. 23, plays No. 16 Croatia four days later and No. 24 Morocco on Dec. 1.

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