'Relaxed' Southgate plays down row over leaked England photo

David HARDING
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Relaxed: Gareth Southgate played down the row with the British media

A "relaxed" Gareth Southgate on Saturday played down a row with the media over England's "leaked" team selection for their World Cup match against Panama and said that would not be his starting line-up.

A spat between the England camp and the British media erupted earlier this week after photographs apparently showed Southgate's assistant Steve Holland carrying the team selection for Sunday's Group G clash in Nizhny Novgorod, revealing he would drop Raheem Sterling and bring in Marcus Rashford.

Then in a radio interview, Southgate said the English media had to decide "whether they want to help the team or not", sparking a row over the role of the media.

But in his first press conference since the argument began, Southgate said it had been blown out of proportion.

"I made quite a balanced observation yesterday, which I am told has gathered quite a bit of momentum," said the coach.

"I should explain my view is that I totally understand the media have a role to report the news.

"My only observation, which I probably haven't worded properly, it's definitely an advantage for us or for the opposition if you know the tactics of the other team.

"From our point of view, I dont expect the media to be supporters of us in terms of the way they work, they are here to work, I know they want us to do well, that's been clear right throughout the tournament."

He added: "I am really relaxed... There's no drama for me about it."

He then said that the photograph "wasn't even the team, so even less of a drama".

England's team and media have traditionally had a fractious relationship, but things have improved under Southgate.

On Sunday's game, he said England had done "due diligence" on Panama and was not expecting an easy game.

"We've seen already the difficulty the big countries in terms of ranking have had in breaking down lower ranked teams," added Southgate.

England, who beat Tunisia 2-1 in their first game with a late Harry Kane winner, will go through if they beat Panama.

After the fuss about England's starting XI, Panama coach Hernan Gomez revealed his hand on Saturday, saying he would name an unchanged line-up from the side that lost 3-0 against Belgium in their opener.

"The line-up will be exactly the same," said Gomez.

Gomez contradicted Southgate though, claiming that knowing England's team beforehand did not give him "any advantage".

He said an "organised" and "speedy" England would present an even stiffer test than Belgium.

"It's going to be our hardest match by far."

He even admitted the result could be as bad as the Belgium game but snapped at one reporter who accused of him of being excessively negative.

"Have you heard me talk to my players, have you?" he responded after being accused of talking down Panama's chances.

Belgium beat Tunisia 5-2 on Saturday to virtually secure their spot in the last 16.