MX23RW : Saturday, February 16 16:14:32
Jun 24, 2018 at 1pm UK at ​Nizhny Novgorod Stadium
Attendance: 43,319
Stones (8', 40'), Kane (22' pen., 45' pen., 62'), Lingard (36')
FT(HT: 5-0)
Baloy (78')

Preview: England vs. Panama - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides predicted XIs, team news and a full match preview for the World Cup fixture between England and Panama in Group G.

England head into Sunday's World Cup encounter with Panama knowing that victory is likely to be enough to secure a top-two position in Group G.

Panama's 3-0 defeat to Belgium has left Hernan Dario Gomez's team sitting at the bottom of the group, and the Central American nation must avoid defeat in Nizhny Novgorod to maintain any hope of progression through to the last 16.


England manager Gareth Southgate on June 2, 2018© Reuters

There are fine lines between success and failure at a major tournament - as England have experienced far too often over the past 30 years - but Monday's 2-1 success over Tunisia marked a rare occasion where England got a bit of luck on their side thanks to two close-range finishes from Harry Kane.

The Three Lions were wrongly denied two penalties by VAR - and it is open to debate whether an infringement from Kyle Walker was severe enough to result in a penalty - but from a performance perspective, it was a game of two halves for Gareth Southgate's men.

Their performance during the first half was outstanding and had it not been for the miscues of Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard and John Stones, England could have been out of sight but concerns remain over the display in the second half - something which is becoming something of a trend at major tournaments.

In their last five games on the biggest stage, England's only goals from open play have come against Wales at Euro 2016, and in all five fixtures there has been a lack of creativity with more onus being placed on a piece of individual brilliance rather than the team as a whole making a positive contribution.

There is no doubting that Tunisia changed their strategy at half time in Volgograd and it hindered England's second-half showing, but there was an unwillingness from Southgate to make the necessary adjustments until late in the game and lessons will need to be learned if England are to go far in this competition.

Naturally, however, more focus will be placed on the positives and regardless of the ins and outs of Monday's performance, England are three points away from qualification for the last 16 of this competition, something they will want to achieve before meeting Belgium in their final game.

There are doubts over the fitness of Dele Alli - who continues to sit out of training with a thigh injury - but England have enough options in this squad where they can retain their quality without the need to take any unnecessary risks.

Some players underperformed against Tunisia but it is something which Southgate will not allude to in public, and the togetherness in this camp feels different to tournaments in the past.

Recent form: DWDWWW


Panama manager Hernan Dario Gomez on March 27, 2018© Reuters

To a large extent, Panama are simply enjoying the experience of showcasing their talent on a global stage after securing a place at the tournament for the first time in their history.

Los Canaleros would have also been overjoyed with having remained on level terms with Belgium for the opening 45 minutes of their fixture in Sochi on Monday, but Dries Mertens's stunning effort would have led to reality kicking in for the minnows.

Coach Gomez would have felt a sense of pride at seeing his team go toe to toe with one of the most talented teams in world football but Belgium ultimately proved that they were several classes above and that may be a concern heading into the fixture with England.

After losing to Belgium, Gomez suggested that their participation in Russia is partly being viewed as a learning experience, and the 62-year-old hinted that his players had achieved a moral victory by avoiding an embarrassing defeat.

Gomez must now come up with a gameplan to take points off England, and while Panama will be hoping to pull off one of the greatest shocks in football, a draw would keep the team alive in this tournament.

That could lead to men being placed behind the ball - something which England will expect - but Panama showed enough on the counter-attack against Belgium to suggest that England would be wrong to dismiss their ability in the final third.

There is a physicality about this team which can also disrupt England's rhythm but although Panama will not be afraid to put themselves about, they will be aware that England are proving to be a threat from set pieces.

Whether Panama can pull off the unthinkable remains to be seen, but England very rarely run riot against teams at major tournaments and that is something which will not be lost on Gomez and his players.

Recent form: LLWDLL

Team News

England's Dele Alli with manager Gareth Southgate after the match against Nigeria on June 2, 2018© Reuters

Alli appears likely to miss out for England, meaning that Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be drafted into the starting lineup.

Southgate could also choose to drop Raheem Sterling, with Marcus Rashford impressing after a below-par outing from the Manchester City winger.

Ashley Young is expected to keep his place at left-back, with Danny Rose having to remain among the replacements.

Gomez will likely make alterations to his Panama side, having previously acknowledged that his squad do not possess the same levels of fitness as their Group G rivals.

Luis Tejada could be brought in to replace Blas Perez in attack, while Ismael Diaz is likely to come in for 19-year-old Jose Luis Rodriguez.

The experienced Felipe Baloy may also be recalled into the defence.

England possible starting lineup:
Pickford; Stones, Maguire, Walker; Trippier, Young, Lingard, Henderson; Loftus-Cheek, Rashford; Kane

Panama possible starting lineup:
Penedo; Murillo, Escobar, Torres, Davis; Gomez, Godoy, Cooper, Diaz, Barcenas; Tejada

Head To Head

Sunday's meeting between the two nations will represent their first-ever clash on the international stage.

However, Panama do have recent experience of playing British teams, having gone up against both Wales and Northern Ireland since qualifying for this competition.

A 1-1 draw was recorded against Wales in Cardiff, before Northern Ireland held Panama to a stalemate when visiting the country last month.

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We say: England 2-0 Panama

Panama must find a balance between trying to gain a positive result from this fixture and avoiding a second heavy defeat, but either way, England should have enough quality to eventually find the breakthrough against the tournament debutants.

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Who will win Sunday's World Cup clash between England and Panama?

England and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dele Alli in training ahead of the 2018 World Cup
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