Panama v Haiti: Collat ready to challenge the best of CONCACAF

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Haiti are not among the favourites for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, but coach Marc Collat believes otherwise ahead of their opener against Panama.

Marc Collat has told Haiti to prove their ability to compete against the best the CONCACAF Gold Cup has to offer as they start a difficult Group A campaign against Panama on Tuesday.

Frenchman Collat took over as Haiti head coach in January 2014 and led the team to a third-placed finish at the Caribbean Cup last November.

That showing was enough to earn Haiti a sixth appearance at the Gold Cup where they were drawn in a tough group against 2013 champions United States, Panama and Honduras - three sides heavily fancied to go far in the tournament.

Collat is aware that his team face a tough ask, but believes his squad has enough talent to mix it with the best.

"It is a very difficult group," Collat, whose team qualified for the Gold Cup by finishing third at the Caribbean Cup, said ahead the contest in Dallas.

"But what I want the players to understand is that we really are able to compete with the other teams within the region."

Haiti will be up against it from the off against a Panama side who are the fourth highest ranked team in the tournament.

Furthermore, Panama have shown their mettle on the international stage in recent years, finishing runners-up at to United States at the 2013 Gold Cup and third in the Copa Centroamericana last year, while just a single point prevented them from qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil last year.

Head coach Hernan Dario Gomez believes the unity within his team could prove crucial.

"I am very happy with what I've seen in [training]," he said.

"What I've seen is a team that is united, a group willing to succeed and do good things."

Panama have been in solid form leading up to the tournament, losing just three of their 12 matches and underlined their credentials by beating fellow Gold Cup hopefuls Costa Rica 2-1 in April.

Haiti's results have also been impressive, with Collat's men suffering defeat only once in their last eight outings.