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Raheem Sterling starts for England, which makes the non-story of Steve Holland’s notes look even more desperate. The only change from the 2-1 win over Tunisia is Rufus Creek for the injured Dele Alli. Panama are unchanged from the team that was plugged 3-0 by Belgium.
England (3-3-2-1-1) Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Henderson, Young; Loftus-Cheek, Lingard; Sterling; Kane.
England have never really enjoyed the group stages of a major tournament. Even when they qualify for the knockout stages, it’s often a torment that involves them hanging on for dear life in the final group game against a team ranked 478th in the world. It’s no fun for anyone – least of poor old Nana, trembling her way through the dying minutes with four lit Marlboros in one hand and a pint of Valium Substitute in the other. And she doesn’t even like football.
Gareth Southgate’s team have the chance to do things differently today, and spare Nana’s arteries. If they beat Panama, they will qualify for the second round with a game to spare. England have only ever done that twice at a World Cup or European Championship, in 1982 and 2006.