Repino: Having edged past Tunisia 2-1 in their opening encounter England would be looking to maintain their winning run and confirm their place in the round of 16 when they face tournament debutants Panama here Sunday.
Skipper Harry Kane scored two goals, thus banishing doubts over his ability to perform on the biggest stage for his country with the first double by an English player at the World Cup since Gary Lineker in 1990.
But Kane’s heroics in Volgograd papered over the cracks of his teammates’ failure to find the net with a host of simple first-half chances.
Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard were particularly culpable and while Kane saved an inquest into England’s profligacy and ponderous second-half performance.
Meanwhile, a media storm of a till now relaxed campaign for the Three Lions brewed Friday after coach Gareth Southgate’s planned team was inadvertently revealed when assistant manager Steve Holland’s notes were photographed at training 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.
However, Southgate criticised the media for giving England’s opponents an upper hand. “If we were to give the opposition the opportunity of having our team it’s a disadvantage to us,” said Southgate. “So of course our media has to decide if they want to help the team or not.”
On the other hand Panama will be looking for an upset if they are to stay alive in the group. Defensive midfielder Gabriel Gomez will play a vital role for Panama. The 34-year-old cool head and clever positioning could be key for Panama to halting the forward runs of Lingard and Loftus-Cheek from midfield, as well as doubling up to stop Kane and Rashford.
- England are unbeaten in their last four World Cup games against CONCACAF nations.
- If England win against Panama Sunday, it will be third time they will be winning their opening two games in World Cup a feat they achieved only in 1982 and 2006.
- Harry Kane became the second player after Gary Linekar (1986) to score one or more goals in the group stages of a World Cup.