Tunisia Toppled Now Can England Prevail Past Panama?
England fans finally got to see their team in action at the World Cup on Monday night as their eagerly awaited and crucial Group G clash with Tunisia took place amongst a plague of midges in Volgograd.
Let’s take a closer look at how Gareth Southgate’s team fared in that game before we preview their next big clash against Panama at the weekend.
Tunisia 1 (Sassi 35 pen)
England 2 (Kane 11, 90+1)
- Tunisia Team – Hassen (Ben Mustapha), Bronn, Ben Youssef.S, Meriah, Maaloul, Skhiri, Ben Youssef.F, Sassi, Badri, Sliti (Ben Amour), Khazri (Khelifa)
- England Team – Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguier, Trippier, A.Young, Henderson, Lingard (Dier), Sterling (Rashford), Kane, Alli (Loftus-Cheek)
- Yellow Cards – Kyle Walker (England)
- Red Cards – None.
On Monday night, England fans experienced something very unusual for them at a World Cup Finals. Not only did England put in a very solid display, especially during the first half when they really should have been several goals in front, but they came back from one of the softest penalty decisions to go against them in many a year, to record a last gasp victory over Tunisia in injury time.
England began well and should have been a goal in front after just a couple of minutes when Jesse Lingard’s shot from inside the six yard box hit the keeper on the knee and went wide, when the United man should really have scored. A few minutes later, a corner from the right was headed at goal by John Stones and while the keeper saved the initial effort, Harry Kane was on hand to tuck home the rebound.
England had several chances to score again with Lingard in particular guilty of missing at least four decent chances to score in the first half alone. Not only had England taken the lead, they were playing flowing attacking football and causing Tunisia a whole host of problems both in play and also from set pieces.
However, that changed about half an hour into the game when a cross from the right saw Kyle Walker try to fend off the Tunisian attacker. Facing his own goal, he raised his arm and caught the Tunisian striker on the cheek, but was astonished to see the referee award a penalty, which Sassi duly converted to level the game up.
That decision was all the more incredible given that at almost every corner, Harry Kane and other England stars were routinely held, manhandled to the ground and on one occasion, rugby-tackled to prevent them reaching the corner, yet the VAR system ruled these clear and obvious fouls as not worthy of bringing to the referee’s attention.
After half-time, England’s pace dropped a little and Tunisia also dropped off, clearly happy to try and defend their way to a point. With Dele Alli in particular looking a little flat, England struggled to break though but still created the occasional chance, which Tunisia managed to repel.
The introduction of substitutes Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek changed matters as England began to inject some much-needed pace into attacks and eventually they got their reward. A corner in injury time was floated over, Harry Maguire challenged for the ball and it hit the Tunisian defender and deflected towards the back post area where an unmarked Harry Kane awaited to stoop and flick a header past the keeper and into the net.
England held on the final couple of minutes to grab the win and a vital three points in the group and that means that they now move on to the second game in the group, which takes place this coming Sunday against Panama in Nizhny Novgorod.
The win was vital as in the first game in Group G, Belgium despatched a spirited but lacking Panama side 3-0, all three goals coming in the second half with Dries Mertens opening the scoring with a fantastic volley, which was then followed by two excellent finishes by Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku to give the Belgians an expected comfortable win.
Group G as it stands
England v Panama – Preview
- Venue – Nizhny Novgorod
- Weather Forecast – 29c, chance of rain showers.
Probable Panama Team (4-1-4-1) – Penedo, Davis, Murillo, Escobar, Torres, Gomez, Barcenas, Rodriguez, Godoy, Cooper, Perez.
Probable England Team (3-5-2 wing backs) – Pickford, Trippier, Young.A, Maguire, Stones, Walker, Henderson, Lingard, Alli, Kane, Sterling.
I think Gareth Southgate will likely want to give the team that performed so well on Monday night a chance to play once again on Sunday. If they win and if Tunisia fail to beat Belgium in the following Group G game, then they will be through to the next round and will be able to rest key personnel for the final group game with Belgium (who may also rest key personnel if they are also through).
With six days between games, England do have the luxury of a period of recovery, hence I think Southgate will stick to the 11 starters for this game, knowing a win should likely see them through as I cannot see Tunisia getting a win over Belgium.
Their opponents Panama began brightly against Belgium but did fall away in the second half and fell to a 3-0 defeat. The temptation for the manager is to make changes, but I don’t see them having any players of superior quality to bring in, hence I think he will likely name a very similar side and formation for the England game, to try and contain Southgate’s team.
The problem for England may well be that the weather forecast for Sunday does have it being considerably warmer in Nizhny Novgorod than it has been in previous days, with temperatures around 29c for the 1pm kick off time (3pm local time), although showers are also forecast which should make the pitch slippy and slicker, something that may benefit Southgate’s tactics.
Match Result – England to win – 2/11 with Coral
England are pretty much unbackable to win the game with Coral offering 2/11 on and England win and of course, this is the bet I would back, although any doom-mongerers amongst England fans could take the tempting 11/2 on the draw or the massive 22/1 on a shock Panama win. I however won’t be one of them.
Correct Score – England to win 2-0 – 19/5 with Coral
Gareth Southgate’s England don’t tend to score too many goals even against weaker opponents and in the heat, I can see them slowing things down a times, which isn’t really their strong point. As such, I think England will struggle to match Belgium’s three goals and instead I think a 2-0 win is the more likely option, provided Kyle Walker faces the right way and keeps his arms down.