England hopes to advance to the Round of 16 with a win over Panama.
It took until injury time, but England was finally able to put the nail in the coffin against Tunisia after a clutch header goal from Harry Kane. They will look to build some momentum and secure a spot in the Round of 16 early with a victory over a Panama side that proved it can frustrate offensive teams like Belgium. Though they went on to lose 3-0, Panama held Belgium off for the first half and showed impressive shape before Belgium’s quality trumped everything. They will look to extend that same effort for a full 90 minutes if they wish to upset Gareth Southgate’s squad.
England’s 2-1 victory wasn’t pretty, but it was enough. Star forward Harry Kane was able to net a late goal and send his side to victory after they conceded an unfortunate equalising penalty to Tunisia. Kane will aim to replicate the success of Belgium’s Romelo Lukaku and strike early rather than late against a Panama side in their first World Cup appearance. Panama will need to frustrate the English and force missed opportunities similar to the ones they suffered against Tunisia. This will require them to watch out for Marcus Rashford, who looks to replace Raheem Sterling in the starting lineup and capitalize on an opportunity to secure the starting job. Panama is now winless in seven of their last 8 outings and have only managed one goal in their last six matches.
If they can avoid costly penalties in the box, England’s defensive front led by Manchester City defenders John Stones and Kyle Walker should be relatively untroubled by Panama’s attack. The South-American side only managed six shots against Belgium and can’t expect to improve much in their next competition. Manager Hernan Dario Gomez will organize his side defensively and hope to stifle the likes of Kane, Marcus Rashford, and Dele Alli. It doesn’t seem likely that they will find much room offensively, but if Panama can keep the game scoreless, they may be able to capitalize on an errant chance and steal England’s thunder.
England’s 2-1 victory over Tunisia was their first opening-game win in a major tournament since 2006. They’ve also kept clean sheets for 12 of their last 14 matches, which doesn’t seem a good sign for a Panama squad lacking in offensive firepower. However, seven of England’s wins in that stretch were by scores of either 1-0 or 2-0, which makes for an interesting betting spread on the total goals.