The Big Match Tactical View: England v Panama

England attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard
Jesse Lingard was a constant goal threat against Tunisia
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England can seal qualification with a victory over Panama. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson provide the tactical and betting knowledge respectively...

England v Tunisia
Sunday 13:00, BBC One
Match Odds: England [1.25], Panama [20.0], The Draw [6.6].

For all the fuss over the supposed 'leaking' of England's starting XI from Steve Holland's notebook, the reality is that we still don't know the side that will face Panama here. Gareth Southgate says it didn't reveal anything specific, and therefore we must wait before learning precisely what changes he's made from the side that defeated Tunisia on Monday.

Changes for England?

Southgate will certainly stick with the 3-5-2 system, but three players will be nervous about their place in the side. The first is Dele All, who limped off against Tunisia and probably should have departed sooner. Ruben Loftus-Cheek replaced him, and is on standby to do the same from the outset here.

The second player is Raheem Sterling, who was replaced by Marcus Rashford for England's first change against Tunisia. Again, Southgate might be tempted to make the switch here, although Sterling's movement was clever in opening up space for midfield runners, and it seems likely he'll be given another opportunity to impress here.

The other possible change could be on the left flank. Ashley Young didn't particularly impress in open play against Tunisia, continually cutting inside onto his right foot. England might need width to break down Panama - if so, then Danny Rose would be the more natural option.

Passing from the back

Otherwise, England will be unchanged. In a game where they will dominate possession, they need their centre-backs to step forward and dictate play from deep. This happened against Tunisia in the second half, when the opposition switched to a narrow attack, and here they'll often find themselves free and with space ahead of them. Kyle Walker will sporadically spring forward, Harry Maguire goes on impromptu dribbles and John Stones can push on and distribute well from deep.

Jordan Henderson also has an important job here. In the first half against Tunisia his passing was very good, particularly when he flipped the ball over the top of the defence for midfield runners. He must also guard against counter-attacks, although Panama lack speed.

Alli or Loftus-Cheek will play alongside Jesse Lingard, whose movement was excellent in the first game. He took advantage of Kane and Sterling dragging the centre-backs out of position and continually made runs in behind the defence, and repeatedly found himself in goalscoring positions. His finishing was poor, but if he continues to make those runs he'll surely find the target.

Kane scored England's two goals against Tunisia, both from set-plays. He was relatively quiet in open play, and again might be forced to act as something of a decoy here, making runs and occupying the centre-backs to create space for others.

Panama likely to defend deep

What of Panama? In truth, they showed little against Belgium to suggest they'll cause serious problems here, although this is a physical side that will put in some tough tackles. Five bookings against Belgium tells the story.

Blas Perez will probably lead the line again, although fellow veteran Luis Tejada could replace him - a two-man strikeforce is unlikely. Edgar Barcenas and Jose Luis Rodriguez will offer some countering threat from wide and holding midfielder Gabriel Gomez can play some decent passes into attack, but an England clean sheet is likely.

Panama do defend their box well, however, with Roman Torres the star defender. He's a fearsome in the air, and defends crosses excellently. England must resist the temptation to hit hopeful balls into the box, and instead focus on getting midfield runners, like Lingard, in behind. I think England will be comfortable here, and I'll back them to win to nil at [1.8].

The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson

It’s never easy for England at the World Cup but this has to be about as easy a match as they could hope for at this stage. Panama are not good, they conceded three against Belgium (even though it took the Belgians until after half time to open their account) and they gave up six against Switzerland recently. Panama are [22.0] on the exchange to win this and it’s not hard to see why, they only won three of their 10 matches in their qualification group, and they scored just once when they travelled outside of Panama.

Gareth Southgate’s men should have won more convincingly against Tunisia in their opener, the game should really have been over in the first 20 minutes as England continually missed chance after chance. This time I expect them to create probably more chances and if they can convert a better percentage they could run up a “proper” score.

Over 2.5 goals is trading around evens and while that looks promising, I really can’t see Panama scoring so I would rather back England to win 3-0 at [8.2] and Any Other Home win at [5.2] in the Correct Score market.

As I can only see one team scoring I thought I would also have a dabble on the goal scorer markets, it may not be original but at [3.4] I think Harry Kane is a fair price to start the scoring again on Sunday. He has played eight times for England under Southgate and scored in seven of those games, netting 10 times in total.

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