World Cup 2018: England vs Panama – Lineups, Preview & Prediction

13:00 BST, Sunday 24th June, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, (Nizhny Novgorod), BBC

A Harry Kane double against Tunisia got England up and running in Group G and calmed the nerves of a nation and the Three Lions will hope for an easier ride against Central American minnows Panama on Sunday.

A win could send Gareth Southgate’s squad through to the knockout stages for the first time since 2010, whilst condemning their opponents to an early exit from the tournament.

In a game of fine margins, England’s late winner on Monday not only earned them all three points, but bought them a pass from the intense media scrutiny that would have accompanied a draw.

Instead, the focus has been on who will make the starting XI for the second game, with many calling for Marcus Rashford to start in place of Raheem Sterling.

Last Time Out

England 2-1 Tunisia

When Harry Kane opened the scoring after 11 minutes on Monday night, Gareth Southgate’s men looked in total control. But a spirited fightback from Tunisia and two overlooked penalty claims set nerves jangling.

Where England teams of old might have buckled under pressure, the current incarnation showed determination and composure, sealing all three points as the game entered added time.

REUTERS/Sergio Perez

It was a deserved victory and one that puts them within striking distance of a place in the Round of 16. A win over Panama should be enough to see them through.

Read Nathan Clark's analysis on England's recent improvements HERE.

There were good performances with Kane, Harry Maguire, Jordan Henderson and Kieran Trippier all drawing universal praise. Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek also impressed in cameo roles from the bench and both could be in contention come Sunday.

Belgium 3-0 Panama

Panama’s opener went as expected as they were beaten comfortably by a star-studded Belgium squad. The Central Americans are enjoying their first World Cup experience and were not disgraced despite going down 3-0. 

They got to halftime on level terms and it took an exceptional volley from Dries Mertens to break the deadlock, after which there was no way back for Los Canaleros.


Coach Hernan Dario Gomez will seek to frustrate England early on, but the goal will be to avoid embarrassment.

Read five things we learned from Panama's defeat HERE.

If they do somehow take anything from this game, it would spark wild celebrations in Panama and perhaps earn the citizens another national holiday to add to the one declared upon qualification.

England Lineup

All the talk has been whether Gareth Southgate should drop Raheem Sterling for Marcus Rashford. The Manchester City forward didn’t have his best game in an England shirt, whilst Rashford impressed as a 68th-minute substitute.

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There is a case to be made that the Manchester United player is much more effective from the bench, but leaked training notes on Thursday hinted that he would get the nod.

There will be one forced change as Ruben Loftus-Cheek comes in for the injured Dele Alli. The Tottenham man picked up a thigh problem in the game against Tunisia and missed training on Thursday.

Panama Lineup

Gomez has a full-strength squad to choose from, but a lack of fitness amongst certain players may prompt changes.

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Veteran Felipe Baloy may return to shore up the defence while Ismael Diaz could step in for youngster Jose Luis Rodriguez on the left wing.

A 4-5-1 formation can be expected and the onus will be England to find a way through their defensive blockade.

Key Battle: Harry Kane (England) vs Roman Torres (Panama)

Harry Kane may not be the most vocal captain at the World cup, but he is one of the most inspirational. He leads by example, does not get frustrated and delivers when it counts.

He will be up against a packed defensive block on Sunday and will have to work hard to find spaces. Kane, however, showed how patient he is against Tunisia and will be ready to seize any chances that come his way, scoring two goals from just three attempts in their opener.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

The Tottenham man will count on supporting runners from midfield to open gaps in the defence as England look to book their place in the last-16.

Roman Torres is a national hero in Panama. The dread-locked defender bagged the goal that took them to the World Cup finals, earning a national holiday.

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Plying his trade in the MLS for Seattle Sounders, the 32-year-old spent much of career playing in Colombia and has been linked with Championship sides in England.

Torres has 108 caps for his country and has scored 10 goals. He will be out to make life difficult for Harry Kane and whoever partners him up front.

Talking Points

Are England World Cup contenders?

With none of the favourites impressing in the opening games, a strong performance against Panama could thrust England into the conversation about potential winners. 

Gareth Southgate has worked hard to downplay expectations and maintain a pressure-free environment, but this is a World Cup and, at some point, the pressure will mount.

In the opening few minutes against Tunisia, England played some of the best football the tournament has seen. If they can replicate that over a longer period against Panama, they will set tongues wagging.

Should Sterling be dropped?

The hot topic of the week has been whether Raheem Sterling should be dropped in favour of Marcus Rashford. The latter’s performance as a substitute against Tunisia prompted calls for his inclusion from the start against Panama.

REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Gareth Southgate must decide if any knock-on effect on Sterling’s confidence is worth the risk. There are no guarantees Rashford will be any more effective from a starting berth.

The Three Lions’ boss might persevere with the Manchester City man and bring Rashford in for the game against Belgium once progression from the group is confirmed.

Can Panama score their first World Cup goal?

With England prone to the odd silly mistake, as showed against Tunisia, Panama will hope for a little fortune in this game. 

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Not only would a Panama goal make the game more interesting, but the scenes that would follow would be worth tuning in for alone.

Prediction: England 3-1 Panama

Panama will be out to avoid embarrassment and England may struggle to break them down, but once they do, expect more goals to follow as Panama heads drop.

However, England like to make things difficult sometimes, so don’t rule out an opposition goal from a set piece or penalty.

Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss preview England, Panama and the rest of this weekend's World Cup action in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.

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