Panama head coach Hernan Dario Gomez sees no reason why England’s possible starting line-up being leaked ahead of Sunday’s game should be any advantage to his players.
Gareth Southgate admonished some members of the media after a team sheet hinting at changes in his XI for the meeting in Nizhny Novgorod was pictured and then made public.
Gomez, though, insists it will make little difference who starts for the Three Lions due to the quality they have in the squad.
“I think it doesn’t give me any advantage,” he told a news conference. “Each and every coach needs to make sure they’re 100 per cent ready, regardless of the opponent.
“My concern is that my players work well, that they stay true to their style and keep up their good work. We’re looking at videos of our opponents but what they do isn’t a priority for us.
“It doesn’t matter who plays; the replacement will be just as good anyway. I’m going to focus on every single one of them. All of their players are stars.”
150 – Harry Kane’s winner against Tunisia was his 150th goal since the start of the 2014/15 season, with 15 of those coming for England and 135 for Spurs. Sensation. #WorldCup #ENG pic.twitter.com/EtdIMh7rvp
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 19, 2018
Panama were beaten 3-0 by Belgium in their opening Group G game but Gomez thinks England represent “by far” their toughest test.
Indeed, the 62-year-old considers Southgate’s side to be candidates to reach the latter stages in Russia given their positive mix of young talent and collective strength.
“For sure [they can go far]. They’re one of my favourite teams,” he said. “However, I already realised they were great before the World Cup. These are young players, they’ve played together at youth level. They’re an excellent team.
“[Sunday] will be very tough. We’ve been watching videos of England, they’ve worked very hard, they’re a tactical outfit, they speed up play and have an amazing one-touch style. It will be our hardest match by far.
“We need to be 100 per cent focused for over 90 minutes or we will suffer a lot. They don’t have a lot of individual stars like Belgium, but they work really well as a team, especially when it comes to ball recovery.”
However, midfielder Edgar Barcenas thinks Panama will be better prepared now they have overcome the nerves of their opening encounter.
“The first match always brings a bit of stage fright but that’s in the rear-view mirror now,” he said.
“We know we need to enjoy things, that’s the way we play. It’s true we have a tough group but to win or play comfortably takes a lot against these sides. We need to enjoy every moment at this World Cup.”
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