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Too-early predictions for 2022: France will struggle

World Cup
 By Reuters

England not as big a threat as Belgium in World Cup group - Panama's Rodriguez

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Panama midfielder Jose Luis Rodriguez believes England will not pose as big a threat as the Belgium side that defeated the CONCACAF side 3-0 in their World Cup opener on Monday.

The tournament debutants held their own against a highly rated Belgian side in the first half in Sochi before a stunning volley from Dries Mertens and a Romelu Lukaku brace after the break helped the Europeans climb to the top of Group G.

Panama are bottom of the group on goal difference and need a positive result against England in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday to retain any hope of progressing to the knockout stages.

"For me, Belgium are a more difficult opponent than England," Rodriguez was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.

"England are a big team with very good players but we will try to win. I watch Premier League football every week... It is fantastic to play against some of those players and I will try to have a good game.

"It will be difficult to stop England -- we have to be well organised -- but we will take the same [physical] approach against them and we will try to win."

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Belgium manager Roberto Martinez expressed concern over potential injuries emerging from Panama's hard tackling but defender Roman Torres says his team will continue to be aggressive to counter a speedy England side.

"Football is like that -- you always have to impose yourself, you have to mark out your territory," he said. "I think we competed well against Belgium, and I think when there were tackles, they got stuck in just as much as we did.

"England are a bit more direct than Belgium. They try to make use of the pace they have. We'll need to be compact and limit their space."

England are second in Group G after their 2-1 win over Tunisia on Monday.


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