After a dramatic opening World Cup game against Tunisia which ended 2-1 thanks to a late Harry Kane winner, England will be hoping things go a lot smoother and stress-free against Panama on Sunday afternoon.
Gareth Southgate’s players were deserving of their victory and opened their campaign with some crisp interchanges in the final third. There was a clear game plan as to what they were trying to achieve and the balance in the team was prevalent.
Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli were pivotal players in making runs and creating space by drawing the defence out of position for Kane to exploit. Jordan Henderson, occupying the midfield by himself, was astute in picking out the right pass at the right time and, more often than not, looked forward early to catch the Tunisian defence off guard.
A lack of composure from Kyle Walker in his own penalty area allowed Tunisia back into the game with a penalty that Jordan Pickford got his fingertips to. While Panama are a less offensive team than Tunisia, the Three Lions will want to make sure no errors are made in light of Belgium the following week.
England fans were hoping their goal scorer was going to get off to a prolific start. Kane answered those wishes and scored twice, leading his team to victory and earning a very valuable and important three points.
The Tottenham forward might have struggled in the European Championships two years ago, but he looks more confident in an England jersey this time round and was in the right place at the right time to tuck away those two goals.
England are strong 2/11 favourites to beat Panama with Ladbrokes - something they should convincingly achieve - and it is likely that Kane will be at the centre of things once more. Kane’s build-up play was exceptional against Tunisia as he brought others into a game that ended up being tighter than England would have hoped for.
While he was quieter in the second half due to the North African team taking a deeper defensive position in their own half, Kane popped up when it mattered and kept his cool head in front of goal when others could so easily have missed the opportunity.
England’s number nine is 11/20 to score at anytime on Sunday afternoon with Unibet, and he is expected to do so. While the manager might take him off after 60 minutes if England are cruising for Jamie Vardy, the Spurs striker’s confidence will be sky high and he will want to chase that Golden Boot award.
While it cannot be said that England release the shackles and run riot often, this newfound look given to the players by Southgate suggests that the quality is there to punish Panama in what should be a fast paced game.
Belgium scored three against the Central Americans after they eventually broke them down. If the Tunisia performance is anything to go by, England will create a vast amount of chances - it is just about taking them and not being wasteful.
In the first 30 minutes, the Three Lions were effervescent in their forward play and had Tunisia constantly on the back foot. If it was not for poor finishing or hitting the woodwork, Southgate’s team would have been home and dry at that point.
England are 4/11 to score more than two goals with Ladbrokes, which looks set to happen with the country’s players looking settled in their positions and having the enjoyment and freedom to express themselves on the pitch.
Southgate has to keep the momentum going in the Three Lions camp and allow them to play the football they have been so far. The minute that England tense up is the moment where panic sets in and a lack of creativity is stemmed from. Why the team were so coherent is partly because of the attacking freedom they had in the final third.
While topping Group G cannot be achieved until the final game against Belgium providing both teams win at the weekend, England are much better suited to playing a team who actually attack them and put them under pressure.
Tunisia and Panama both sit back and defend while deploying a low block, whereas the Red Devils might have the lion’s share of the possession throughout the game. England’s strength comes from raw speed when transitioning from defence into attack.
With the likes of Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford Alli and Lingard, the Three Lions have the capabilities to punish any team in the competition with the sheer pace they have on and off the ball. England are 6/4 to win the group and progress into the knockout rounds with Betfair after their next two games.