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- Jim White: Fantastic fans and where to find them at World Cup 2018
There have been so many times when England were such a tactically flat, stressed-out bunch that they could squeeze the joy out of battering even the meekest opposition, so against Panama you had to rub your eyes at the general levels of fun being had.
This was England as we rarely see them, the game won in the first half, a place in the second round with a match to spare and a general feeling of abandon that anything could happen. Harry Kane notched only the third World Cup hat-trick in English history, and then there was an unfamiliar competence observed on the basics of the game, especially two set-piece goals created for John Stones that demonstrated actual planning.
Everything that could go right for England did although they never felt lucky and they chuckled at Kane’s third that ricocheted off his heel while he was looking the other way. Somewhere in the Moscow outskirts one could only guess at the grand disdain Cristiano Ronaldo will have felt at being supplanted as the tournament’s top scorer in that manner.
It hardly needs saying that this was England’s biggest World Cup win but it was also World Cup football as enjoyment rather than the usual torture. Afterwards, Gareth Southgate conjured up the modern English pastoral when he said he was glad to have delivered goals for a public watching at home on a “warm Sunday afternoon”. A great vision of barbecues ablaze, televisions repositioned and six times a boozy roar across the back gardens.
Out in the scorching mid-afternoon of Nizhny Novgorod, an industrial goliath east of Moscow, England looked strangely at ease in a foreign land: with the heat, with the pressure of being the favourites, with the rhythm of tournament football. They once got to half-time against Andorra in Barcelona in a Euro 2008 qualifier without sticking a goal past the part-timers of the ski resort nation and yet this time they had buried the first within nine minutes.
Later the Panama coach would excuse his players their tactical naivety and their relentless corner routine grappling by proclaiming that the nation had made history with their first World Cup goal from substitute Felipe Badoy. “We are virgins!” Hernan Dario Gomez said. “We have been born before the due date! We are debutants. We have to celebrate what we have done.” Yet the team ranked 55th in the world edged out the United States on their way to qualification.
What mattered was the performance was good from England, and the greediness with which they helped themselves to five before half-time showed a little frission of pleasure at being the bullies for once. Southgate called it “ruthlessness” and there was something very smart about the way in which Stones swept through the pack unmarked to head in the first while Panama stuck doggedly to their gameplan of trying to spear-tackle Harry Maguire at every dead ball situation.
Southgate credited his strikers’ coach Allan Russell for the finessing of set-pieces and the Scot has done good work, especially with the fourth that was worked back and forth across the box before Stones nodded in his second. Jesse Lingard won the penalty for Kane’s first, and curled in the third after an exchange with Raheem Sterling. Kane won his second penalty himself just before half-time with Anibal Godoy trying to coerce him in the penalty area with all the subtlety of a new pub landlord breaking up his first fight.
Both Kane penalties were dispatched with a viciousness that spoke of a confidence in that particular art - which is also unusual when it comes to England. They went in five goals up. The Panama captain Roman Torres, a big man who also nurtured a Maguire preoccupation in the first half, beckoned his team-mates together for a chat on the pitch. There was a conversation, although sadly not the full Phil Brown routine.
Kieran Trippier departed in the second half with a minor strain but he had done enough to underline his new pre-eminence from dead balls. It was he who picked out Stones from a corner for the first, and Trippier then found Lingard before he was fouled for the first of two penalties. Southgate made a place for his understudy right-back in this new formation and Trippier’s range of delivery ticks all the boxes.
The last group game against Belgium in Kaliningrad on Thursday, with its full complement of England fans in the Russian exclave on the Gulf of Finland will not be the decisive match it could have been. Southgate said later his preoccupation was “squad harmony” and giving chances to those who have not played much, which will include the three unused outfield players, Gary Cahill, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Phil Jones.
There is the tricky question of whether first or second place in Group G will open up the better route for England, identically matched with Belgium and in first place by virtue of disciplinary record. With Romelu Lukaku nursing an injury and Kane potentially rested it could yet be a strange hand of poker that both managers play. England have been here before, hedging their bets on the last group game and came out the worse for it.
That was at Euro 2016 when the momentum of a win over Wales in the second group game was squandered when Roy Hodgson rested key players for the final game against Slovakia. England were pitched into a fateful second round tie against Iceland rather than Northern Ireland and the rest is so many bad memories. Both Southgate and Roberto Martinez have said they want to win the game although we wait to see.
Kane’s third cannoned off him, a Ruben Loftus-Cheek shot heading in another direction, and Southgate immediately replaced him with Jamie Vardy. Fabian Delph played his first minutes in place of Lingard and Trippier was later substituted for Danny Rose. This is the shape of the England team that is likely to play against Belgium. The last time England showed anything like this promise in a tournament, at Euro 2004, it was the third group game that they lost Rooney to injury so perhaps caution will be Southgate’s guiding light.
Even so, they lit a fuse against lowly Panama. Unlike so many of their predecessors at tournaments, England feel part of this one - scoring goals, forcing others to notice them. When he took the job on a permanent basis, Southgate recalled watching a highlights reel of the 2014 World Cup at a Fifa draw and noticing with horror that not once did it feature England, so meagre had their efforts been at that tournament.
Already England are on the highlights reel for 2018. They have scored eight goals in two games and have the tournament’s current top striker. Having hit this kind of pace it would be a shame to see it peter out against Belgium before they embark on the second round. They might not have the best squad at the tournament but they have some form at last and the confidence flowing from that is of the kind we have not seen in years.
Well, this is something
Even if Loftus-Cheek's pass was really a shot:
25 - There were 25 uninterrupted passes played by England before their 6th goal today; the longest sequence for a World Cup goal since 1966 & one more pass than Esteban Cambiasso's goal for Argentina v Serbia in 2006 (24). Fortunate.#Eng#EngPan#WorldCuppic.twitter.com/pBnHr1EEKr— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 24, 2018
How they stand
The captain speaks again
Gareth Southgate speaks
"I didn’t like the performance. Well, I didn’t like the start, and I didn’t like the goal at the end, but I guess the bits in the middle were pretty good. I think we were a little bit anxious at the beginning. We played some really good stuff after 35, 40 minutes.
"The second half is difficult. We talked about the importance of one more goal to be top of the group, which is why the goal at the end is disappointing. But it’s really rewarding to see how well they’re playing, and how much they’re enjoying their football.
"Big moments for Jess Lingard today, of course great for the captain to get his hat-trick which made it easier to take him off. [Was he OK about coming off?] Probably not but I've got a group to look after and there were some heavy tackles flyinhg about.
"We said before the game, no more yellow cards. That was a key part of the second half, definitely.
"We want to keep momentum, so we’ll have to have a think about the team we want to put out [against Belgium]. There’s an opportunity as well that players that need a match, but also we want to keep winning football matches. It’s a nice decision to have."
Breaking news about England's anthem for the Belgium game
It's been changed to this for Messrs Walker, Stones, Maguire, Rose, Delph and Vardy:
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has a word
"To win 6-1 in the World Cup is fantastic. I’m delighted with that. I think we want to put on a good performance for the fans, but also for ourselves.
"For such a young captain [Harry is] so vocal. I think everyone respects him massively, what he’s done for Tottenham and bringing it in for England.
"We work on set pieces a lot, and to see it coming good in the games when we prepare so much for it. It’s such a big factor in games, we put in so much work and we’re glad that it keeps coming out on the pitch."
Ashley Young takes the mic
"The togetherness I’ve seen is incredible. Off the pitch everybody mixes with each other. Everybody wants the ball, nobody shies away from the ball. We’ve got to keep on doing that, keep showing our confidence and keep playing the way we have.
"We’ve just got to keep our feet on the ground and keep working hard in training. This could be the start of something good.
Relive the match in a minute
Here are Ben Rumsby's ratings
Jesse Lingard speaks
I thrive in that role. It's great to be around the lads. There's a great team spirit. The confidence is flowing, I don't see why not [we can't go all the way] but we take each game as it comes. [You don't seem very exuberant] I'm always like this in interviews.
Opta's statistical pointers
- England have won both of their opening two group stage games at a World Cup tournament for the third time, also doing so in 1982 and 2006.
- This was England’s biggest ever win in a major tournament match (World Cup and European Championships).
- This was only the fifth occasion a side had scored five goals before half-time in a World Cup match, and the first since Germany did so against Brazil in the 2014 semi-final.
- England scored as many goals in this match as they had in their previous seven World Cup matches combined (6).
- Only in 1966 (11) have England scored more goals in a single World Cup tournament than they have in 2018 (8, same as 1954 and 1990).
- John Stones became the first England defender to score two goals in a single World Cup match.
- Harry Kane is only the third England player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup match, after Geoff Hurst vs Germany in the 1966 final and Gary Lineker vs Poland in 1986.
- England striker Harry Kane is the first player to have scored at least twice in both of his first two ever World Cup appearances since Poland’s Grzegorz Lato in 1974. Lato went on to win the Golden Boot at that tournament.
- England’s Harry Kane is now the leading scorer at the 2018 World Cup with five goals. He’s scored with all five of his shots on target in the tournament.
Harry Kane speaks
Fantastic. So proud of the boys. Just enjoying being here.They started pretty well but we've been working on the setpieces and it all came together. The match ball is one of my lucky ones but I'll take it. It's been brilliant, both sets of fans. Ours have always been great but it's what the World Cup is all about. We're not going to get too far ahead of ourselves but you have to believe. There's a long way to go but we have to stick to our game plan. A bit disappointed to concede at the end. We'll go into Belgium looking for a win but let's see what happens. Now we'll rest, recover and get ready for next week.
Here's your chance to rate the players
Full time England 6-1 Panama
A hat-trick for Kane, two for Stones and a screamer from Lingard give England their record victory in tournament football. They led 5-0 at half-time and then squeezed the game, harboured their reserves and celebrate a famous victory.
90+2 min England 6-1 Panama
The game has pretty much petered out in the second half but I suppose that is evidence of clever game management and resource protection by England. Lingard, a picture of joy, juggles a plastic cup with his feet while sitting on the bench.
90 min England 6-1 Panama
Young's cross is flicked on towards the centre of goal and Stones, on a hat-trick, just fails to connect with a stabbed finish. Penedo gobbles it up gratefully. We'll have four more minutes.
89 min England 6-1 Panama
There are horns and cow bells contributing to the cacophony. England have a free kick about 35m out, left of centre. Young will take.
87 min England 6-1 Panama
Vardy sprints down the right, whitewash on the soles of his feet, and beats Davis. He fires over a deep cross outside the box for Delph who has to jump high to trap it, which he accomplishes but lands awkwardly so mis-hist his pass.
86 min England 6-1 Panama
'Nothing wrong with a boring second half,' says Danny Murphy and, of course, it makes sense. Rashford for Lingard, though, would have been something worth seeing.
84 min England 6-1 Panama
England pass it around slowly around the back - killing time and the game understandably. Vardy has hardly touched the ball.
82 min England 6-1 Panama
Sterling tacks in from the left flank on to his right foot and sends a curving shot whistling past the far post. Hit very sweetly on the instep but not enough whip to bring it back in.
80 min England 6-1 Panama
The goal was set up by one sub and scored by the other. Henderson, acting captain, gives the players a rollicking and tells them to step it back up.
78 min England 6-1 Panama
And that goal is greeted more raucously than any of the preceding six by the crowd who have embraced their hordes of Panamanian guests.
GOAL!! England 6-1 Panama
Baloy - the 37-year-old - does what Torres didn't, connects with a sliding half-volley, this lone from about 8m when England's offside trap falls apart from a free-kick on the left. Poor defending. Crisp finish.
75 min England 6-0 Panama
Rodriguez sprints between Walker and Young and gets to it first to cross. It's overhit but Rose lets it go out for a corner on the right nit knowing if there was anyone behind him. They whip in the corner and it's glanced on to the back post. Torres telescopes out his right leg and lunges to tap it in from a metre but bludgeons it wide.
74 min England 6-0 Panama
He chips it to the far post where Maguire wins it and knocks it back across. Another touch sends it out to the 18-yard line where Henderson, shouting Loftus-Cheek to 'leave it!' hooks a roundhouse volley - a 'Ronnie Whelan' for older readers, and hooks it powerfully round the left post.
72 min England 6-0 Panama
Ashley Young, now playing on the right, takes a free-kick from the left.
68 min England 6-0 Panama
Murillo loses the ball on the right and it allows time for substitutions. Rose replaces Trippier who took a knock. That's six Tykes. For Panama Barcenas and Perez go off, Baloy and Arroyo come on.
65 min England 6-0 Panama
Barcenas darts down the inside right channel and has a chance from a tight angle but Pickford is out smartly to blocktackle him and Stones and Walker deal with the ball comfortably. Here comes another Yorkshireman in Rose. White shirts, white rose.
63 min England 6-0 Panama
Harry Kane is now the leading scorer in the tournament and the third England World Cup hat-trick man after Sir Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker.
60 min England 6-0 Panama
No, the goal stands. Loftus-Cheek's shot hits Kane's heel and balloons over the keeper. That;s his last touch. Kane is going off to be replaced by Vardy and Lingard will be replaced by Delph. This is not England any more. It's Yorkshire v Panama.
GOAL!! England 6-0 Panama
Kane has his hat-trick. VAR might scrub this off, though.
60 min England 5-0 Panama
Panama move the ball to the right and back again as England set themselves in compact defensive lines to win the ball back. Stones has three runners upfield but doesn't make the right choice.
58 min England 5-0 Panama
Panama continue to engage in some after-tackle filth, hands in faces, sly kicks and digs.
56 min England 5-0 Panama
Pickford taps it to Walker who plays it up to Henderson and he gives Kane a hare to chase with a long ball up the inside-right channel. Escobar, who has improved, gets there first.
55 min England 5-0 Panama
No criticism that England have not resumed as they finished the half. They're trying to find their rhythm.
54 min England 5-0 Panama
Fingers burnt by the penalty, they keep their hands largely to themselves this time. But Trippier's centre is well-defended.
52 min England 5-0 Panama
With all the caveats about how useless Panama have been defensively and in the final third, Sterling is playing very well, adopting some excellent positions and playing some penetrating passes. England have a throw on the right and give it to Loftus-Cheek who tries to round Escobar by the byline but is tackled. England corner. Panama;s defenders are warned again.
50 min England 5-0 Panama
Kane has the ball on halfway and Sterling hurtles out of the blocks beyond the defence when Kane releases it. Brilliant run but Kane's pass was too heavy. They had beaten the offside trap but the throughball was too close to Penedo who pelted out to win the race with Sterling.
48 min England 5-0 Panama
But Barcenas misjudges Perez's run and plays the wrong pass into the box. England pounce on it and set off on a rapid counter.
47 min England 5-0 Panama
Panama are passing the ball around slowly, keen, one thinks, not to be humiliated further. They inject some pace now and work a triangle up the right.
46 min England 5-0 Panama
England attack up the right, Loftus-Cheek and Trippier combining well and crossing to the back post for Kane who beat Torres but cannot squeeze an attempt on goal.
John Stones's second and Harry Kane's second
And here's Harry Kane's second penalty. He went the same way but even if the keeper had it would have amputated his right hand at the wrist.
Here's Lingard's goal and Sterling deserves great praise for his cute pass:
Sorry went too early - it's only half-time of course
Here's Paul Hayward on the first goal:
"Grappling in the box looks clever until you ignore the runner, as Panama did there with John Stones, who darted between wrestling matches to put England in front.@
What a terrific first-half performance form England. They lead a World Cup game 5-0 and there's still 45 minutes to come. If Panama finish with 11 men I'm a Dutchman.
45+1 min England 5-0 Panama
Maguire is smacked in the mouth by Cooper who swings his arm as they leap. That looked deliberate. Panama are losing all discipline and the plot. Looks like they'll go down swinging, literally. Dirty devils.
44 min England 5-0 Panama
So Kane joins Lukaku and Ronaldo on four goals apiece.
GOAL! England 5-0 Panama
Escobar and Torres pantomime disapproval at the penalty and are booked which eats up more time for Kane to settle himself. But he isn't fazed. He torpedoes it into the same place. Cue Jon Champion: 'It's getting better and better and better and better and better.'
Kane is being grappled at a corner. The referee warned the Panama players not to do it three times but they don't listen. Godoy tries to bodyslam Kane.
40 min England 4-0 Panama
Amazing. Henderson receives the pass on the edge of the penalty area back to goal and hooks a cross to Kane beyond the right post. He nods it across to Sterling whose header from a couple of metres is saved by Penedo and Stones is first to the rebound on the right and forces his header into the roof of the net.
GOAL!! England 4-0 Panama
John Stones from a perfectly-executed free-kick routine.
36 min England 3-0 Panama
Lingard, battered from pillar to post for the first 15 minutes, glides in from the left to take Sterling's stabbed pass and bends a venomous shot from the left side of the D around the onrushing, panicking defenders and into the top right corner of the goal. This is a bit like England v Poland from 1986.
GOAL!! England 3-0 Panama
Lingard with a lovely right-foot shot from 20m, steered into the top corner.
33 min England 2-0 Panama
Lingard bails Maguire out at the back with a diligent and dogged tracking run after Maguire loses his position. He has many attributes Maguire but he needs too screw the nut. There are too many errors.
30 min England 2-0 Panama
England free-kick 35m out. Trippier will take. The break affords Murphy and Mowbray some time for golf banter. Always a joy. Trippier strikes it well, curling it deep beyond the back post where it is met by Maguire's run. He heads it back across goal and over the other post. He should have squared it to his team-mates in the middle or gone for goal but it turned into neither one thing or the other.
28 min England 2-0 Panama
Much better from Panama who enjoy a couple of minutes of sinuous movement and sharp passing. They work an opening through Cooper and Perez for Rodriguez to run on to a threaded pass in the box, to the left. He has Godoy peeling off his marker and free but lashes a shot from an acute angle into orbit. What a waste.
26 min England 2-0 Panama
Young penalised for kicking Cooper where the sun doesn't shine as he raised his leg to control a bouncing ball. Henderson hooks a lob over the back four for Sterling who wins it but was offside. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been booked for a foul just after the third kick-off. Here's Kane putting the penalty in something my son and his schoofriends call 'top bins':
24 min England 2-0 Panama
Panama's strategy seems to be to inject as much needle into this as possible, after all sorts of niggly fouls and delaying tactics, they complain that England take too long in their celebrations, this after forestalling the taking of the pen by almost 150 seconds.
22 min England 2-0 Panama
Blimey! That was some penalty. He almost ripped the net with his thunderfoot.
GOAL!! England 2-0 Panama
Yes he can, despite some shoving from Barcenas on Lingard on the 18-yard line and Gomez trying to spook the taker. Smashes it into the top-right corner.
So Kane will take the penalty. Can he score in his fifth successive match for England?
Lingard bundled over by Escobar and Torres as he ran down the inside-right channel. VAR is checking whether he was offside.
18 min England 1-0 Panama
Torres kicks across Sterling's foot and catches his studs. He goes down screaming blue murder until the ref stops the game for his self-inflicted pain.
16 min England 1-0 Panama
For the third time Panama exploit hesitation from Young and Maguire on the left of England's defence to dial up the speed and shift the ball inside quickly. Barcenas, striding forward down the inside-left channel, meets the pass from Murillo and bends a left-foot shot that has Pickford scrambling across goal and diving but it trims the outside of the side-netting. Close, though.
14 min England 1-0 Panama
Dawdling by Torres invites Kane twice to have a run at the defence but he can't keep the ball under control and the opposition recover. Here's Stones' goal:
12 min England 1-0 Panama
England lose possession cheaply from the free-kick, Maguire's poise and precision absent so far. Barcenas accelerates away from him and into the box. Walker clears up the first mess but England cause another that Panama's haste squanders. Walker's lunge stopped Perez tapping in at the back post.
11 min England 1-0 Panama
Cooper lunges in at Lingard just past halfway and clatters into his shin pad malevolently. Yellow card.
9 min England 1-0 Panama
Maguire and Kane were being grappled and obstructed by octopus arms but Stones wriggled free of his assailant and stooped to steer in a bullet header from Trippier's fine corner.
GOAL! England 1-0 Panama
John Stones buries a header from the penalty spot.
7 min England 0-0 Panama
Good pass from Walker, diagonally out to the right flank, for Trippier's clever run and the full-back wins a corner.
6 min England 0-0 Panama
Panama's tempo has caught England on the hop a bit and Rodriguez, the victim of Henderson's foul, is felled again as they snap into tackles. The free-kick is taken too long and England come back upfield but at no great pace.
5 min England 0-0 Panama
Panama take the free-kick into the box, Kane heads clear and Barcenas wallops a 25m shot over the bar. Then Panama exploit the short goalkick and Stones's poor pass to break down the left and find space for Godoy to shoot and he too thrashes it high and wide. Terrible finish but England invited the pressure with dozy play there.
3 min England 0-0 Panama
After 90secs treatment Lingard is passed fit to continue and Panama restart, knocking it down the left where Henderson is penalised for a strong tackle.
2 min England 0-0 Panama
And drags a pass back from the byline to Lingard whose first touch is clumsy and he has to go up to try to win it back in the air. Gomez elbows him in the mouth as they challenge for it but the referee deems it accidental. He did swing his arm back but he isn't penalised.
1 min England 0-0 Panama
Panama 's huddle finally breaks up and England kick-off, attacking to the left and overloaded on the right flank. They roll it back to Stones and the three players on the right bomb forward but they play it short and move it to the left and back again. Trippier slips a pass past Davis and Loftus-Cheek rounds him.
Two minutes to go
The players chat and shake their legs.
Some Panama fans and players
Have gone for the full Dallaglio, moist eyed and bellowing it out. Tune.
England stand with their arms across each other's shoulders
For the national anthem and when it ends Harry Kane shouts 'Come on!, Come on!' There are far more Panama fans there than England's and they sing lustily along.
Is being interviewed by Gabby Logan and is asked to do his Scouse and Cockney accents. The first is passable, the second risible. Pace Dr Johnson: It's not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.
This really should be the match shirt.
The temperature is heading up 34C
Gareth Southgate says he will be using England's hydration strategy but there will be no official water breaks. On the Brexit scale 34C is 93F so he will have to employ his substitutes judiciously. "We think we will have the vast majority of the play, which is good in this heat, but we have to move the ball quickly and use width intelligently. The prize for today is to qualify with a game to spare but we have to concentrate on our performance. We need to be patient."
Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker
Have just embraced and jumped up and down, a la Chandler and Joey, in imitation of the excitement of the Panama World Cup panel. Them Shearer reveals that he has had a word with Harry Kane and told him to speak to the referee about holding at corners before they are taken.
Now the BBC is using Joy Divsion's Day of the Lords for a montage. I applaud their taste but it's sacrilege to have people talking over it. Music is to be listened to, not deployed as background.
Those starting XIs in black and white and their records
England (3-1-4-1-1) Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Henderson; Trippier, Loftus-Cheek, Lingard, Young; Sterling; Kane.
Panama (4-5-1) Penedo; Murillo, R Torres, Escobar, Davis; Barcenas, Cooper, Gomez, Godoy, J Rodriguez; Perez.
Referee Gehad Grisha (History)
England wear white, Panama red
See how our Anna Wintour, Thom Gibbs, assesses the strips:
Ninety minutes' ebb and flow can be a bit of a distraction for some. If you'd like to know the final score now, have a go on the Telegraph's ingenious AI forecaster:
The heat is oppressive
Jason Burt reports:
The air conditioning in the England dressing room has been turned up to the maximum ahead of kick-off against Panama in an attempt to keep the players as cool as possible before the game starts.
The players will also be given a fresh kit at half-time and iced towels to try and control their body temperatures with the temperatures on the pitch here in Nizhny Novgorod soaring towards the high 30 degrees celsius.
The England medical staff are confident that the air conditioning in the dressing room will help although there may be a concern that the dry air could affect the breathing of the players, especially those susceptible to asthma.
However the medics do not believe this will be a problem with dehumidifiers in use and, because the stadium is new, an air conditioning system which means it is ice cold inside the dressing room.
In previous matches in such conditions England have also used fans inside the dressing room with players wearing ice vests as they warmed up but the more light-weight training gear is believed to be sufficient this time. Sometimes kit is also sprayed with a cooling agent and water to also help.
A big issue will be hydration. Players will be urged to take on board as much fluid as possible and to hydrate at every opportunity during the match.
The design of the stadium means that around half of the pitch will be in shade at kick-off but heat will undoubtedly be a factor.
It may be roasting but Southgate's not taking off that weskit for anyone.
Deux bieres et un pastis, garçon, s'il-vous plait.
England make one change
Ruben Loftus-Cheek comes in for Dele Alli and will partner Jesse Lingard in the midfield duo ahead of Jordan Henderson. Raheem Sterling starts and Marcus Rashford will continue as an impact sub. He's a terrific talent, Rashford, but I can see the sense in employing his impact as a substitute and his understanding of the opportunities the role provides - he seems more aware of them than Sterling and his better control in tight areas can turn tired defenders. If Sterling does his job and keeps running hard down the channels, Rashford can cash in later on.
England team confirmed
How England should go about their business today
Here's our 140-cap columnist's take:
And another well-wisher
Whose original intention was to retire at the end of this, his fourth World Cup, but wisely decided to call it a day 10 months early:
Panama avoid team sheet melodrama
By naming an unchanged XI for today's match 24 hours early:
Panama Penedo; Murillo, Roman Torres, Escobar, Davis; Barcenas, Cooper, Gomez, Godoy, Jose Luis Rodriguez; Perez. Substitutes Calderon, Cummings, Gabriel Torres, Diaz, Machado, Pimentel, Arroyo, Ovalle, Tejada, Avila, Baloy, Alex Rodriguez.
Pointers from the Belgium game - Murillo is pretty good, Roman Torres is an ox, Barcenas a snapper and young Rodriguez is going to be a fine player.
England fans begin to arrive at the stadium
Robert Mendick and Wil Crisp report:
"Travelling England fans have never been so middle-class. Nizhny Novgorod, a city on the Volga once so sensitive it was ‘closed’ to visitors in Soviet times, was laid siege on Saturday by a small army of England fans made up of lecturers, chartered accountants, investment bankers, company CEOs and the like.
[The game's gone]
A man, a plan ... a palindrome
Opposition research - plenty of troubling stuff that comes under that category in today's newspapers. This is far more wholesome:
England alumni reporting for duty
The guys wearing @england shirt today feel like a group who have an understanding of what the manager wants from them & who believe in all he asks. A recipe for good days ahead.— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) June 24, 2018
Let’s go ������ #england#worldcup#ENG#3lionspic.twitter.com/cRyonsKbcW
Ruben Loftus-Cheek should make his first World Cup start
Here's what Ruud Gullit had to say about him last September:
"I always loved this guy, also when he was at Chelsea. I saw him playing yesterday as well.
“He’s so influential and I think the more he plays, the better he gets. He knows how to play his game, he knows how to go forward.
“I want him in the centre, he needs to have the ball. Technical, strong, he is a fantastic player. He is the one who has the brains.
“He’s a future England player, this one. I really believe in this boy, he’s a good player."
Here's what Paul Hayward has to say about his selection:
England missed a spectacular night in St Petersburg
Matt Scott reports that England will make only one change rather than the anticipated two and that Raheem Sterling, scorer of 18 Premier League goals and provider of 11 Premier League assists en route to the title last year, has been retained in the starting XI. Read the full story here.
England's qualification game
In an intriguing twist to Wonderful World, Gareth Southgate adapted the words of Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert and Lou Adler to say history is not the important thing for this team’. Biology? Science book? The French they took? Word came there none. The only thing that matters, he says, is making their own history and they can certainly share an achievement today if they defeat Panama and join ‘Ron’s 22’ from 1982 and Sven’s band of Baden-Baden Charlie Big Potatoes from 2006 as England sides who have won their opening two group games at a World Cup.
The England manager, by contrast with his players, is a student of history (no word on geography, trigonometry, algebra or what a slide rule is for). Southgate is known to the friends he grew up with at Crystal Palace as ‘'Nord’, a name bestowed on him by Wally Downes, but it is one that reflects the observational sharpness of a dressing-room wit. The young Gareth, with his eight O-levels and relatively affluent upbringing in Crawley, contrasted markedly with his more cocky and shrewdly streetwise South London contemporaries in the Palace youth team.
His considered, unhurried way of speaking reminded Downes of Denis Norden, erstwhile co-writer of Take It From Here and a regular TV face hosting It’ll be Alright on the Night and speaking with his mouth full while selling Nuttall’s Mintoes. In an age when anyone in the game who spoke measuredly or enjoyed reading was instantly derided as ‘Prof’ or ‘Brains’, a descendant of the old Army contempt for ‘book learning’ characterised in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’s ‘Mr La-Di-Dah Gunner Graham’, ‘Nord’ was a cut above.
It stuck but his greenness did not. With the help of the goalkeeper Andy Woodman, the Hush Puppies and Ronnie Corbett golf sweaters that were so mocked behind his back were eased out and a lifelong friendship chronicled in a joint autobiography, Woody and Nord, nurtured them both. Southgate’s intelligence and application benefited him, too, and he became the youngest full-time captain in the country in 1993-94, the season he led Palace back into the Premier League.
After Palace’s relegation in 1995, Southgate left in the summer for Aston Villa where he expected to join Andy Townsend and Ian Taylor in his usual central midfield role. So did Brian Little, the man who signed him for £2.5 million, but a fortnight later could not resist buying Mark Draper when Leicester finally agreed to sell. Little, an underrated, strangely neglected manager, put him between Ugo Ehiogu and Paul McGrath in a back-three, a move so successful that England called him up after only eight games in the position.
When Des Walker lost his aura of impregnability in the early Nineties, England reverted to type at the back, ‘head-on-a-stick’ centre-halfs, as Gary Lineker called them, or export maypoles, the static object around which foreigners would dance. Terry Venables wanted something more progressive, a centre-back who was comfortable moving out of defence to pick up opponents attacking from deeper positions. Southgate flourished in the role and, despite the penalty miss in the Euro 96 semi-final that will forever shadow him, continued to perform astutely in Glenn Hoddle’s sides, never better than during the 0-0 draw with Italy that secured qualification for the 1998 World Cup.
His game continued to evolve well into his thirties, becoming as accomplished an orthodox central defender in a back-four as he had been in a three and it is a testament to his quality and durability that when Rio Ferdinand was banned for missing a drugs test in 2003, Sir Alex Ferguson immediately tried to sign the 33-year-old from Middlesbrough.
Looking back it seems obvious that he was born to manage but given that he has moved at the Football Association from Head of Elite Development to Under-21 head coach to England manager, it is odd to recall that he succeeded Steve McClaren at the Riverside without a Pro Licence, in the face of much opposition from the League Managers Association, and had to qualify on the job.
Southgate looks the model of a modern coach, even down to the DH Lawrence beard - cosmopolitan, flexible and cerebral. Yet there are echoes too of Malcolm Allison and Dave Sexton, whose undervalued toughness complemented their sprightly creativity and aptitude for teaching.
But don’t be fooled by appearance. Twice in the past he has identified that inspiration is key - first when he witheringly said of Eriksson’s half-time team-talk when England had just conceded a stoppage-time equaliser in the 2002 World Cup quarter-final: “We were expecting Winston Churchill and instead got Iain Duncan Smith.” And then again in 2006 when advocating a successor for Eriksson: “I want an Englishman who’s going to say: ‘Remember Churchill.’”
If anyone in Nizhny Novgorod hears strains of ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ delivered in the extraordinary, deliberate tones of Denis Norden this afternoon, there can be only one culprit: a man who continues to defy all preconceptions.
As for Panama, who fought bravely against Belgium, kettled them and hobbled them with some cynical and wild tackles, the 30C heat in the city once known as Gorky after Maxim, though Sorrento and Capri had similar claims over the writer, should have a greater toll on much older legs. They are a veteran side, a tough side and play with genuinely intimidating muscular athleticism. Any thoughts that they may trial a new approach here have been thoroughly debunked by their veteran defensive midfielder Gabriel Gomez. “We are men, we are aggressive,” he said. “Football is played with aggression, with desire. We are a team that knows how to play and when we have to fight, we fight.”
For all that, they are pretty enlightened technically if not always tactically and can open up a defence with decent movement - at no great pace - and some inspired passing angles. Against Belgium they were unable to commit runners consistently to help out their lone 37-year-old forward and settled for an attritional scrap that frustrated world-class talents such as Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne and made them look pedestrian. It took a terrific strike from Dries Mertens to prise Panama’s vice-grip around their throats early in the second half after a stultifying first 45 minutes. Class will out but England and their supporters will have to be patient.