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England geared for physical battle against rugged Panama

By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- England coach Gareth Southgate will make at least one change when his side play Panama in their second Group G game of the World Cup on Sunday.

Although midfielder Dele Ali returned to training on Friday after suffering a minor thigh strain in Monday’s 2-1 win against Tunisia, Southgate is unlikely to risk him, with Ruben Loftus Cheek, who replaced the Tottenham man for the last 10 minutes against Tunisia expected to get the nod.

Loftus Cheek, spent last season on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea and showed enough to earn a place ahead of the less attack minded, Fabian Delph who spend several minutes warming up in the first half when Ali originally suffered the injury.

England created and missed plenty of chances in a bright first half against Tunisia, but needed an injury time header from Harry Kane to get their World Cup campaign off to a winning start.

Those missed chances may prompt Southgate into further changes with Marcos Rashford in for Raheem Sterling, while there are calls for Danny Rose to replace Ashley Young at left back.

Young didn’t play badly against Tunisia, but the fact he is naturally right footed, means he tends to check inside to cross with his right foot, while the left footed Rose is more adapted to taking the ball in his stride.

The defense will remain the same and the impressive Harry Maguire will be important in defending Panama’s dangerous long throws into the England penalty area.

A win for England would give them six points and depending on the result between Belgium and Tunisia, could see them into the last 16 ahead of what is in theory the toughest game of the group when they face the Belgians on June 28th.

Panama lost 3-0 to Belgium in their opening match, after holding Roberto Martinez’s side to 0-0 for the first 45 minutes and their physical approach, which earned them five yellow cards was criticized by Martinez after the game.

However, Panama coach ‘Bolillo’ Gomez and his players are unlikely to change their approach against England, continuing a defensive 4-5-1 formation and inviting England to attack them.

Defender Harold Cummings commented that Panama would be "hard," and that they would "compete" without looking at the names on the back on the England shirts.
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UPDATES:

England studies a lot on Panama over last few months, says Southgate

NIZHNY NOVGOROD Russia (Xinhua) -- England head coach Gareth Southgate said on Saturday that his team has studied Panama "a lot over the last few months" and he expected no more surprises in their World Cup Group G clash here in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday.

"We’ve done a lot of due diligence over the last few months.

We don’t expect too many surprises of how they play," Southgate told reporters.

"Their route to qualification was incredible.

"They knocked out the United States."

Panama made their debut at the World Cup on Monday but suffered a 3-0 loss to Belgium.

The British media worried that the Three Lions knew little about the World Cup newcomer despite its low FIFA ranking.

After Belgium crushed Tunisia 5-2 on Saturday, a victory against Panama will ensure England to seal a position in the last 16.

However, England’s coach reminded his men to raise their vigilance and learned lessons from the previous matches in Russia.

"We’ve seen already the difficulty big countries in terms of rankings have had in breaking down lower-ranked teams.

"That’s been a theme right the way throughout.

"There’s no way there’s any complacency in the way we’ve prepared for the game," Southgate said.

"The situation in the group is obviously a healthy one for us, but we’ve got to focus on our performance," he added.
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Panama to maintain starting lineup unchanged
against England, says coach Gomez

NIZHNY NOVGOROD Russia (Xinhua) -- Panama’s starting lineup against England on Sunday’s World Cup Group G match will be the same as they fought against Belgium, said Panama’s coach Hernan Gomez on Saturday.

"The lineup will be exactly the same," Gomez said.

"I like how my team works.

"We have a certain stability and an organized team."

Regarding the game against England on Sunday, the Colombian tactician said the match will be very tough for Panama and urged his team to "concentrate 100 percent for the full 90 minutes".

"If we are distracted, even for a millisecond, we are going to suffer.

"We need to put in a lot of tactical work and organization in our defense.

"Otherwise, we’ll suffer a lot because of the type of team that England is," he added.

Gomez also praised England’s players for their diligence and technical level.

"We have watched footage of England.

"England worked very hard," the 62-year-old coach said, "They recover ball possession very quickly.

"They speed up play very quickly and have a one-touch approach which is amazing.

"They also have a great deal of depth on the bench."

"It’s going to be our hardest match by far," he added.

Panama, who lost to Belgium 2-0 in their opening game, need a least one point on Sunday to preserve their hope of surviving the World Cup group stage.

             

 

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