England face Panama at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Sunday, but who are the three players worth keeping a closer look on in the Group G game?
England will aim to book their place in the Round of 16 when they meet Panama in their second group game at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Sunday. The stakes have been laid clearly out in front of Gareth Southgate and his men following Belgium’s 5-2 win over Tunisia on Saturday.
Win the game and they’d have returned to the Round of 16 at the World Cup, having finished bottom of their group in 2014. Panama though, will aim to delay that for as long as possible. The Hard Tackle now takes a look at three players who could make a big impact on the game on Sunday afternoon.
After a bright cumulative performance in the first half, England seemed to be missing the spark post half-time for the most part. With the Three Lions in need of some inspiration, Ruben Loftus-Cheek got the chance to impress when he replaced an ailing Dele Alli, and impress he did.
Back in a midfield role, in which he predominantly developed during his Chelsea academy days, Loftus-Cheek looked like a man on a mission. Tunisia found his pace and directness extremely tough to deal with and it was looking like it would be the youngster who would make a mark.
Unsurprisingly, it was Loftus-Cheek who won the corner that led to Harry Kane’s winner. On Sunday, he will need to make a similar impact, albeit from the start, with Alli likely to sit the game out due to a thigh injury. From being a shock name in Gareth Southgate’s squad to possibly being England’s X-Factor, it has been a fine turnaround for the Chelsea loanee.
The game against Belgium provided a good indication as to the level of the Panamanian defence. While they can hold their own for a while, persistence and perseverance can see a decent attacking unit break them down eventually, and this English attack is more than just decent.
In such a scenario, veteran Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo will have to shoulder a big responsibility to keep the Three Lions at bay for as long as possible, and must brace himself to be peppered with a barrage of shots all night long. Will Penedo rise to the occasion and possible earn Los Canaleros their first ever point at the World Cup? Only time will tell.
Against Tunisia, a bulk of the chances that England created came from the flanks, with Ashley Young and Kieran Trippier pretty much the chief creators for the side. Among the duo, Trippier was highly impressive, having created six chances in the match – the most by any player in a game so far at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
His deliveries from the right flank will again provide a major threat, reaching into the danger area in the opposition box where there will always be a chance for someone to pounce and tap the ball in. Expect another game with a barrage of chances created by the Tottenham man, with the Panama defenders having nightmares defending his crosses.