England 6-1 Panama: Rating the players

Date published: Sunday 24th June 2018 2:19

Provided his customary acrobatic dive for a shot that was closer to the corner flag than his far corner. He was Harry Maguire’s comfort blanket throughout, constantly offering an out-ball when Panama could be bothered to press in the Nizhny heat. England’s defence tried their best to sully the linen, only for Pickford to preserve his clean sheet with a clever second-half save from Barcenas. Alas, it was not to be as Felipe Baloy did a goal. There is no blame to be attached to the goalkeeper.


After wreaking havoc on Tunisia’s defence on Monday, the Tottenham right-back continued his fine form six days later. He claimed an assist for the first goal, played the pass into Jesse Lingard to win the penalty for the second, started the move for the fourth and took the corner that led to the fifth. Unlike in Volgograd, he was not England’s best player. But he was chief among a clutch of labourers who constructed the platform for a record-breaking success.


It is difficult to apportion blame for Panama’s goal, thus the entire defence must shoulder responsibility. Walker’s positional awareness must again come in for question, which is only natural for a right-back playing at centre-half. There was one brilliant intervention from a dangerous driven cross in the first half, and his passing range is improving when he neglects the easier option of Ashley Young: ten of his 12 long balls were accurate. Better attacks than Tunisia and Panama are likely to provide a sterner test for a player who exudes individual confidence but team nervousness. There are scares and a few fumes, but the experiment is working for now.


Made up for an early mistake with a delightful header. He was unmarked, with Panama defenders more interested in trying to remove Harry Maguire’s shirt, but he kept his concentration and nerve. And just like Barnsley buses, his second international goal arrived soon after. As with Walker and Maguire, there should be questions over his role in Panama’s goal, as he did play Baloy onside. But that was one step backwards after about 20 in the other direction.


I love Harry Maguire. I love his marauding runs, where his mind seems to separate from his body so it can just watch whatever brand of madness unfolds. I love his approach to defending, and his general competitive spirit. Gary Cahill might be having a quiet word in Gareth Southgate’s ear, as the laziness and slack nature of England’s second-half performance did start to creep into the Leicester man’s game, but this was only his sixth cap.


A woeful early tackle let in Anibal Godoy for a chance, but his clever intervention allowed Stones the space to score the opener. Most of Panama’s most positive football came down his left-hand side. If England do have a particularly weak area, it is unsurprisingly where a 32-year-old winger is playing out of position in defence. He is solid, but will never offer anything more than an average display. With England focusing most of their attacks down the opposite flank, that might not necessarily be a bad thing. But you do find yourself willing Danny Rose to reach full match fitness.


Unfortunate not to score and cap another quietly impressive performance in the centre. The opposition hardly provided the most demanding of tests, but Henderson maintained his exacting levels to the very end. No player made more than his three tackles, and no player completed more than his 427 point-and-shouts.


His movement against Tunisia was phenomenal but his finishing wayward. The first solution was to make those exact same runs, but wait for clumsy defenders to clatter into him in the penalty area before he shot. The second was to reduce the amount of time he had to think, and maximise his instinctive brilliance. The one-touch play with Raheem Sterling to create the smallest of openings was wonderful; the strike that followed was sublime. England’s man of the match deserves an apology from much of the nation, including yours truly.


He brings a certain undeniable physicality to England, a presence that safeguards against intimidation, like the bigger, older brother invited to a kickabout. That may seem contradictory, given his obvious inexperience, but there were no telltale signs that this was a player on his full World Cup debut. He did not misplace a single pass in the first half, and held his position well in the second. His discipline in comparison to Dele Alli, whose attacking instincts sometimes carry him further forward than he needs to be, was also a positive. He completed more dribbles (3) than his teammates combined (2), and was very tidy in possession. Forget all that though: what an assist.


The goal is still not forthcoming, and thus the critics will feel justified in continuing their crusade against him. But he played an integral part in two goals, and put in a much better performance than against Tunisia. Panama targeted him as expected, but he gave as good as he got: he committed the most fouls of any player (5). This was not the perfect response after a difficult week, but it was a fine one.


The murmurs of complaint at placing pressure on himself to match Cristiano Ronaldo’s exploits at this tournament have fallen silent. Harry Kane offered precious little in England’s build-up and interplay, completing ten passes with his 21 touches, but he scored a sodding hat-trick. The boy has five goals in two games; Gary Lineker (10) is the only player to have scored more times at the World Cup for England. 



JAMIE VARDY (on for Kane, 63)
In theory, he is the perfect substitute to bring on an stretch a weary defence for either he or his teammates to exploit. In practice, he completed three passes and had eight touches in 28 minutes.


FABIAN DELPH (on for Lingard, 63)
What a touch.


DANNY ROSE (on for Trippier, 70)
He’s just not quite there. Ryan Bertrand is sat at home shaking his head.


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