Tunisia’a spoiling tactics very nearly led to England coming unstuck, in their opening game. How does John Newsome feel the Three Lions will fare, against weak-looking Panama?
ENGLAND v PANAMA
England got off to a great start in their opening game against Tunisia even though they made hard work of it. Harry Kane got the opener and the Three Lions seemed in control in the opening 30 minutes. Inexplicably Kyle Walker forearm smashed the Tunisian
Fakhreddine Ben Youssef and the referee had no choice but to award a penalty, coolly despatched by Ferjani Sassi, although England stopper Jordan Pickford did get a hand on the ball. Kyle got himself in a bad position when the ball was floated into the box and swung his arm at Fakhreddine. Maybe in the Premier League, he would have got away with it, but not at the World Cup in Russia. The Tunisian’s frustrated England the whole of the 2nd half and after a couple of substitutions from Gareth began to apply pressure to the Tunisian defence and in the 91st minute, Harry Kane lost his marker and coolly headed home the deserved winner for England. This game against Panama should be easier and a win would send England into the last 16, meaning the final game against Belgium becomes a dead rubber for both teams.
Panama frustrated Belgium in the first half of their Group G opener but ultimately were not good enough and are really only here to make up the numbers. The Panamanian’ did collect 5 yellow cards, the most by a team up to now but none developed into red. They may use the same tactics against England but will again come up short and England should get the win they need.
England Win 3-0
JAPAN v SENEGAL
Japan surprised everyone with a superb win against Columbia. They were helped on their way with an early sending off when Columbian midfielder Carlos Sanchez only lasted 2 minutes before seeing red. Ex-Manchester United player Shinji Kagawa took immediate advantage of the dismissal and scored an early goal for the Japanese. Columbia did equalise in the first half but Japan gained control in the second half and the extra man paid dividends when legendary Rising Sun star Keisuke Honda came on in the 70th minute and made an instant impact supplying Cologne’s Yuya Osako who coolly slotted home the winner in the 73rd minute.
Senegal also got a surprise win in their opener against Poland again by the score of 2-1. They were also helped on their way by their opponents by way of an own goal. Only this time, the Senegalese made it 2 nil in the second half and didn’t let Poland equalise. Torino forward M’Baye Niang getting the 2nd on the hour mark. Poland did manage to pull a goal back in the 86th minute, but this was purely a consolation and The Lions of Teranga held on for a well-deserved win. Both teams will know that a win here will go along way to cement their place in the last 16.
POLAND v COLUMBIA
Both of these 2 were favourites to progress from Group H, even with talk of which one would face England in the last 16. However, both were on the end of a 2-1 defeat which now makes qualifying difficult for whoever loses this game and a draw isn’t really any good. Poland scored an own goal against Senegal, the unfortunate Thiago Cionek was the culprit that gave Senegal a head start. West Brom’s Grzegorz Krychowiak scored for Poland but this ultimately came too late and the damage was done.
Columbia also shot themselves in the foot early on in their game with Japan. Espanyol midfielder Carlos Sanchez was shown a red card in just the 2nd minute for handling the ball in the penalty area gifting Japan a chance to take the lead. Juan Quintero equalised in the 39th minute but Japan scored a 2nd in the 73rd minute inflicting the defeat on the Columbians. This will be a tight affair with so much at stake.
BELGIUM v TUNISIA
After a tentative 1st half against Panama, Belgium came out for the start of the 2nd half and started to play and quickly overcome the stubbornness of the South Americans. Dries Mertens scored a spectacular goal to kick things off and Romelu Lukaku got his World Cup goalscoring off to a great start scoring a close-range header by way of a sublime pass from Man City Maestro Kevin de Bruyne. Big Rom got a 2nd with 15 minutes to go and that was that. Belgium off to a winning start and Panama will surely only be in Russia to prop up Group H.
Tunisia were beaten in their opener against England but did put up more of a fight literally than Panama did against Belgium. After going behind in the heat of Volgograd they were awarded a penalty which Ferjani Sassi coolly converted. Whilst they lacked real technical ability, they didn’t lack the use of the dark arts. Feigning injury, falling over with a slight touch, holding onto the English players at corners and genuinely cheating. Ultimately they got what they deserved and lost. Belgium should be too strong as well and a win here for the Red Devil’s would take them into the last 16.
Belgium Win 2-0
Contact John Newsome, with your own predictions, requests and feedback, at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org