England’s media give Panama the inside lane
● Handed a winning start for the first time in a major tournament for 12 years by captain Harry Kane’s injury-time winner against Tunisia, England can look forward to today’s meeting with Panama with rare World Cup calm.
A two-time Premier League Golden Boot winner, Kane banished doubts over his ability to perform on the biggest stage for his country with the first double by an English player at the World Cup since Gary Lineker in 1990.
But his heroics in Volgograd papered over the cracks of his teammates’ failure to find the net with a host of first-half chances. Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard were particularly culpable and while Kane saved an inquest into England’s profligacy and ponderous second-half performance, Sterling’s place against Panama is in jeopardy.
The first media storm of a hitherto relaxed campaign for the Three Lions was brewing at the start of the weekend after Gareth Southgate’s planned team was inadvertently revealed when assistant manager Steve Holland’s notes were photographed at training on Thursday.
According to the notes, Marcus Rashford will replace Sterling with Ruben LoftusCheek stepping in for Dele Alli, who suffered a thigh injury against Tunisia.
Southgate criticised the media for giving England’s opponents an upper hand.
“If we were to give the opposition the opportunity of having our team it’s a disadvantage to us,” said Southgate.
“So of course our media has to decide if they want to help the team or not.” In contrast to his 23-goal season at club level for Premier League champions Manchester City, Sterling now hasn’t scored in his last 21 internationals. Bur Rashford refuted suggestions England are too dependent on Kane for goals.
“I don’t think that’s happening in this group,” said the Manchester United striker, who admitted to being an admirer of Kane’s ability to be in the right place at the right time. “He gets himself in great positions. If we can find him, we will, and, more often than not, he’s going to score.”
Marksman Harry Kane has Panama in his sights.