Weblog: The football punter

England should land routine World Cup win

World Cup Group G
BBC1, 1pm Sunday

England left it late before overcoming Tunisia 2-1 in their opening World Cup fixture but things should be far more routine against Panama in Nizhny Novgorod.

Bookmakers cannot see anything other than another maximum-point haul for the Three Lions, who are red-hot match favourites and rightly odds-on in other subsidiary markets such as to win to nil and to be leading at half-time and full-time on the double-result market. 

The handicap - England are asked to concede 1.5 goals - could be an way of keeping the favourites on your side, but it may pay to bet on 2-0 and 3-0 correct scores with a heavy beating unlikely, even against arguably the weakest team in the competition.

England have never won a major tournament game by more than three goals and in 33 World Cup and European Championship contests this century it has more often than not been a struggle in finals.

Of those 33 games, 13 have been won, 12 have finished in draws (in normal time) and eight have been lost. Nine of the 13 wins were by just one goal with the exceptions being 3-0 victories over Denmark and Switzerland, 4-2 against Croatia and 2-0 against Panama's Concacaf rivals Trinidad & Tobago.

There was a buzz to Gareth Southgate's side early on against Tunisia as they created many opportunities, at least until the African outfit retreated their defensive line and made it more difficult for England's speedy attackers to find space.

For all the enterprising play it needed two set-piece goals to obtain maximum points with Harry Kane continuing his excellent form under Southgate with a double. 

The skipper has scored in each of his last four international appearances and has ten goals in his last eight games. Kane goes in search of more glory against Panama, aiming to match Ron Flowers' 1962 effort of scoring in England's opening two World Cup matches.

Kane could have a new partner in Marcus Rashford after the likely line-up was seemingly uncovered by eagle-eyed observers at a training session, much to the annoyance of Southgate, although some who have worked closely with the Manchester United forward believe he is unable to show his best form against opponents in a low, defensive block.

Presumably Panama will defend deep with the idea of frustrating England in much the same manner as they did in Monday's opener against Belgium, who were held goalless in the first half before moments of individual quality saw the Red Devils land a 3-0 victory.

Panama were arguably the most physical side in the opening round of matches, picking up five yellow cards in a tournament where it has been difficult to get booked, but they offered little in the way of attacking intent to suggest Jordan Pickford will be overly troubled.

Hernan Gomez's men scored only nine times in ten games in the final round of Concacaf qualifying and finishing with a negative goal difference highlights Panama's obvious deficiencies.

England to win 3-0

England to win 2-0

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Match in Focus

18:00 We 14Nov SKY

Switzerland v Qatar

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • The Swiss are unbeaten in 11 matches on home soil
Expert verdict
Switzerland hammered Iceland 6-0 in their last home game and should have no problems in this friendly against Qatar. The visitors failed to make the World Cup, finishing bottom of their third-round qualifying group in Asia, and lost 2-0 away to Uzbekistan in a friendly in October.