England is looking to all but guarantee its place in the last 16 of the World Cup when it takes on Panama on Sunday in Nizhny Novgorod.

Three points for Gareth Southgate's side would secure its spot in the knockouts if Tunisia does not beat Belgium, which leads Group H following the first round of matches after dispatching Panama, 3-0.

An injury-time goal from Harry Kane handed the Three Lions their opening victory over Tunisia in Volgograd, and they are firm favorites to make it back-to-back successes in their first competitive meeting with Panama.

England's time in Russia largely has gone smoothly, but one or two concerns have seeped into Southgate's plans over recent days.

A thigh injury to Dele Alli looks set to keep him out of the match, while a leaked team sheet appeared to show Raheem Sterling would also be left out of the match against Hernan Dario Gomez's side, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek starting in midfield and Marcus Rashford partnering Kane in attack.

Southgate, who suffered a dislocated shoulder this week, admonished the media at England's base in Repino after the photo of the team notes emerged, casting something of a shadow over what has been a positive atmosphere among players and reporters that has even resulted in a friendly darts competition.

England struggled to break down Tunisia in the second half of their opening match and there are concerns England could find it similarly tough against a physical Panama side, which offered stout resistance against Belgium in a goalless first half.

However, defender Kyle Walker insisted on Friday that the Central American side is the one that should be worried, saying: "We know they're a physical team. Tunisia like to play the ball out from the back and were very patient, but Panama are probably more direct.

"They need to worry about us more than we have to worry about them. We've men in key areas who can go and get goals at any time. If we keep the ball, keep to the style we've been playing, I think we'll be fine."


England – Marcus Rashford

Belgium found it tough indeed to break through Panama until Dries Mertens produced a bit of magic, so including Rashford from the start makes perfect sense for England. The Manchester United forward's pace could be crucial in stretching the defense and giving him and Kane the space they will need in the attacking third.

Panama – Gabriel Gomez

Gomez screened the back four well against Belgium, which would be no easy task for any player, let alone a 34-year-old. He also completed all 46 of his attempted passes in the match. Aside from his obvious leadership qualities as his country's record caps-holder, Gomez's cool head and clever positioning could be key to halting the forward runs of Jesse Lingard and Loftus-Cheek from midfield, as well as doubling up to stop Kane and Rashford.


— England is unbeaten in its last four World Cup games against CONCACAF nations (W2, D2), drawing the last two against Team USA in 2010 and Costa Rica in 2014. Its only defeat came in 1950 against the United States.

— Panama will be the 38th nation England has faced at a World Cup. Of the previous 37, England has lost a first meeting against only five: the U.S. and Spain in 1950, Uruguay in 1954, Hungary in 1962 and Italy in 1990.

— CONCACAF nations have won only one of their last 10 World Cup meetings against European sides (W1, D3, L6), with Mexico beating Germany in the opening round of matches in this tournament.

— Only twice before has England won both of its opening two games to a World Cup campaign (1982 and 2006).

— Harry Kane has scored both of England's goals so far at World Cup 2018. The last England player to score more goals in the group stages of a World Cup tournament was Gary Lineker in 1986 (3).