Friday 23 August 2019

The main talking points as England prepare to face Panama

Sides go head-to-head on Sunday.

England take on Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday (Aaron Chown/PA)
England take on Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday (Aaron Chown/PA)

By Rory Dollard, Press Association Sport, Nizhny Novgorod

England play the second match of their World Cup campaign against the Central Americans of Panama on Sunday.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at the pressing issues ahead of the Group G clash.

All eyes on the team sheet

Will England’s starting XI be the one suggested by Steve Holland’s notes (Tim Goode/Empics)

After the long-lens snaps of Steve Holland’s team notes, the final make-up of the England XI will be a point of intrigue on Sunday. Gareth Southgate suggested the media had made assumptions rather than uncovered revelations about his intended side but the proof will be in the pudding. The main issue is Raheem Sterling or Marcus Rashford in attack and whether the manager will stick with the former or twist. Holland’s papers looked like good news for Rashford but that may not have been the final verdict.

Opportunity knocks for Loftus-Cheek

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A thigh injury for Dele Alli seems certain to open up a slot in midfield and, with England expecting to be firmly on the front foot, Ruben Loftus-Cheek is best placed to fill it ahead of Eric Dier or Fabian Delph. For a player who has just completed his first full Premier League season it is a huge chance to impress and if he can showcase the value of his athletic, driving style, building on a bright cameo against Tunisia, he could find himself in the team to stay.

Don’t see red

Panama are unapologetic about their physical style, one aspect where they can match higher ranked opposition. They picked up five yellow cards in a bruising outing against Belgium but England’s coaching staff are equally wary about their own players maintaining discipline. With provocations likely, the Three Lions must stand their ground without risking any red cards. Losing their heads might be the only way they can lose the game.

Harry to carry the burden again?

Harry Kane scored both of England’s goals against Tunisia (Adam Davy/PA)

Pep Guardiola once memorably described Tottenham as the “Harry Kane team” and England are in danger of earning the same reputation unless their captain receives more support in the scoring stakes. His consistency is a real boon but the fact he was alone in keeping his nerve against Tunisia causes concern. Hopes will be high at least one of his colleagues can hit the target against Panama to reduce the reliance on a single source.

Feeling the heat

The mercury is rising in host city Nizhny Novgorod (Aaron Chown/PA)

After a edging a narrow win against Tunisia on a warm night in Volgograd, Southgate’s men returned to the pleasant climes of Repino on the Gulf of Finland. It rarely got above 20 degrees during their training sessions, so energy-sapping conditions could well have an impact on England’s performance. Humidity compounded the 32 degrees temperature in Nizhny Novgorod as Panama trained on the eve of the game – something England decided against and may regret when they walk out on Sunday.

PA Media

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