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FIFA World Cup 2018: England feel the heat ahead of clash against Panama

England need to deal with rising temperatures and a leaked picture detailing team plans ahead of their crucial Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

football Updated: Jun 23, 2018 20:27 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Nizhny Novgorod
England national football team,FIFA World Cup 2018,England vs Panama
England's Ruben Loftus-Cheek (L), Gary Cahill (2L), Jesse Lingard (2R), and Phil Jones (R), attend England's official training in Zelenogorsk near St. Petersburg, Russia on June 23, 2018 on the eve of the group G match between Panama and England at the FIFA World Cup 2018. (AP)

The build-up to the England national football team’s second game, against Panama at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium here on Sunday has been slightly tense. And it is because of the potential of a picture to say a thousand words.

A leaked photograph of a paper containing the teamsheet for Sunday’s game has led to some bitterness between the England camp and the country’s media contingent.

“Try to keep it to yourself and don’t bring it out to the world, because it’s not going to help us come the later stages of the tournament. You guys have to do your little bit. So, if you could just please help us with that, it would be polite,” defender Kyle Walker told reporters at the team base in Repino on Friday.

The photo, clicked by an English reporter at an open training session, didn’t take long to make its rounds on the internet.

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England got here on Saturday afternoon from a place that was a lot cooler. Their Repino base had witnessed temperatures up to 17 degree Celsius till Saturday morning but in Nizhny, they could be facing at least a 15-degree jump.

However, despite off-the-field issues, spirit remains high in the England camp. Gareth Southgate’s side buzzed in the opening 30 minutes against Tunisia.

They could score only once in that period, missing a number of chances but after their opponents scored through a penalty, the tempo gradually slowed.

But Southgate will take heart from the fact that his side managed to put enough pressure on Tunisia and get full points.

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With skipper Harry Kane in fine form against Tunisia, England will be confident of their goal-scoring ability. But with Raheem Sterling looking a shadow of the player he was at Manchester City last term, it needs be seen if Southgate prefers Marcus Rashford in the starting XI.

Having suffered a thigh strain in the opener, Dele Alli could sit out and Ruben Loftus-Cheek pair Jordan Henderson in the midfield.

With three points virtually sealing their place in the next round, there aren’t likely to be many changes in England’s line-up.

Panama’s first-ever World Cup match saw them lose 0-3 to Belgium. It also put five players on a booking.

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Hernan Dario Gomez’s side though does have a strong defence and frustrated Belgium in the first half. Playing with a 4-1-4-1 formation, Panama can cause similar problems for England if they stay disciplined.

However, it is their attack that Panama will be worried about. Against Belgium, they had seven shots on goal, with two on target, but really failed to pressure the opposition backline. In their last seven matches, Panama have score just twice.

First Published: Jun 23, 2018 19:21 IST