Repino: Confident England will start as hot favourites against debutants Panama in a Group G FIFA World Cup clash here at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Sunday.
England struggled against the well organised and physically imposing Tunisian defence in their first match of the tournament. Skipper and star striker Harry Kane’s last gasp winner in second half injury time handed England a winning start for the first time in a major tournament after 12 years.
England dominated the game and wasted a hatful of chances against Tunisia, and on Sunday coach Gareth Southgate would want his wards to improve on that.
Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard were particularly guilty of spurning simple chances before Kane saved them the blushes.
Kane, who plays for Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League (EPL) and is a two-time EPL Golden Boot winner, lived up to his billing and performed on the biggest stage for his country with the first double by an English player at the World Cup since Gary Lineker in 1990.
Southgate’s planned team was inadvertently revealed when assistant manager Steve Holland’s notes were photographed at training on Thursday.
According to the notes, Marcus Rashford will replace Sterling with Ruben Loftus-Cheek stepping in for Dele Alli, who suffered a thigh injury against Tunisia.
“If we were to give the opposition the opportunity of having our team it’s a disadvantage to us,” Southgate was quoted as saying as he criticised the media for helping the opposition.
“So of course our media has to decide if they want to help the team or not.”
Sterling had a wonderful season with Manchester City, scoring 23 goals to help them lift the EPL title. But for England, the former Liverpool forward has been rather off the boil, having not found the back of the net in his last 21 internationals.
However, Rashford refuted suggestions England are too dependent on Kane for goals.
“I don’t think that’s happening in this group,” said the Manchester United striker, who admitted to being an admirer of Kane’s ability to be in the right place at the right time.
“He gets himself in great positons. If we can find him, we will, and, more often than not, he’s going to score.”
Minnows Panama meanwhile, have shown that they can keep their shape and frustrate opponents. They did well against fancied Belgium in their first game.
In the first half, Belgium could not breach Panama’s defence and match their power. In the second half though, they were undone by the more skilful Belgium players and lost 0-3.
Racking up goals against Panama could be crucial if England are to top Group G. (IANS)