Eng­land’s me­dia give Panama the in­side lane

Sunday Times - - Sport | Golf/Russia 2018 -

● 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.

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