The World Cup is known for it’s great narratives, and there were few better than Panama’s unlikely qualification for the 2018 tournament, coming at the expense of the USA and allowing the Central American nation a chance to participate for the first time. We can’t see them achieving anything other than making up the numbers though, especially as they now face an English side that should win comfortably.
England are the clear favourites in what is definitely a David and Goliath battle. While it’s true that England haven’t achieved too much at the World Cup over the past fifty years to claim the title of a ‘Goliath’, the reality is that 99 times out of 100 an English ‘B’ team could defeat the Panamanians comfortably. There is just too much of a gulf in class here.
Panama couldn’t have asked for a more testing trip to the world’s greatest sporting event. They come into this match on the back of a monumental first up clash with Belgium, and will be aware that defeat in this match will all but end their campaign. We actually think they are a decent chance against Tunisia in their final group game, although it will be little consolation if they have already been eliminated.
But England too will feel the pressure, and perhaps more so than their opponents. England are clear favourites, and have struggled with that tag at the World Cup. While they manage to comfortably dispatch lowly ranked European teams during qualifying, they have never looked settled in the major tournaments. Their loss to Iceland in the 2016 European Championships is a great example.
England next face Belgium, so they will want to sure up their position in the group before they move on to that match. We’re certainly not backing against them in this match, although we would love them to fill us with a little more confidence.
England started at around -400 and have firmed into -539, a clear favourite in a match they will win. The only other possible result is the draw (+561), while you would be rewarded for your insanity if you placed a bet on Panama at +1400 and they managed to win.
England kept eight clean sheets in qualifying, and were denied the chance against Tunisia by VAR. Panama failed to score in more than a third of their qualification matches and didn’t look a chance against Belgium. We’re therefore tipping England to win to zero here, and have settled on a modest 2-0 scoreline that will match their tally in their opener.