Excellent spacing at set pieces gets goals to loosen up a back six as it finished England 6-1 Panama in World Cup Group G.
England have become quite the set piece masters. Two goals from dead ball situations against Tunisia were followed up by four here as it finished England 6-1 Panama.
Good set piece spacing, combined with excellent movement, once more were too good for their opponent. As a result of these goals, Panama was loosened up defensively and more followed.
Panama’s back six
Panama had clearly identified the England wingbacks as the problem that they needed to diffuse. The Central American side therefore opted to use a back four, which became a six in the defensive phase. Wingers Edgar Barcenas and Jose Luis Rodriguez dropped in to cover the England wingbacks. The pair did this so that the back four could pinch in and congest the centre of the pitch.
The plan was a good one on paper. However, with six across the back line, the midfield trio in front couldn’t cover across the width of the pitch. Consequently, England could get down the sides of them and on to the Panama back line far too easily.
England passes in-behind
A feature of this England side has not only been the set pieces, but also early balls in-behind the opposition defence.
England were at this from the start against Tunisia and continued in that fashion here. Kyle Walker’s flighted ball over the top for the run of Kieran Trippier run forced the corner from which John Stones would open the scoring.
England set piece spacing
England has obviously put a lot of work during training on free kicks and corners. The spacing and movement of this team has been a think of beauty to watch. Runners hit all the channels across the box, with good spacing between each man. The team also hems the six-yard box well with strategically placed players for good rebound control. What’s more, the delivery from both Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young has been impeccable.
It was all on display for the first goal in spite of Panama’s best attempts to grapple as many England players to the floor as possible. England had four players each running a lane to spread out and occupy a Panama defender. Ashley Young then screened John Stones’ marker. The centre back was therefore allowed a free run in to the channel created by the four strategic runs of the England players in front of him to head home.
Kieran Trippier’s cross was once more on point. The delivery was straight in to the area that it needed to be at the perfect height for Stones to power his header in to the bottom corner. England 1-0 Panama.
Passing in-behind wins penalty
Jesse Lingard’s runs in behind the defence were a feature of England 2-1 Tunisia. The Man Utd midfielder was at it again as England continued with the tactic. Kieran Trippier was once more involved as he spotted Lingard pointing where he wanted the pass.
Trippier’s positioning was also good. Panama’s wingers were marking our wingbacks and trying to make it difficult for them to get forward. Trippier being deeper meant that his marker had been drawn out from the back six, leaving space for Lingard to run in to.
Trippier’s pass was on-point to find Lingard’s perfectly timed run. Roman Torres and Fidel Escobar combined to bundle Lingard over from behind for an obvious penalty.
In spite of Panama’s best efforts to interrupt and delay the taking of the kick, Harry Kane displayed nerves of steel to stay composed. The ball was dispatched in to the top corner with effortless power and consummate ease that no goalkeeper was going to get near it.
England open up between the lines
Racing in to a two-goal lead saw Panama lose some of their defensive discipline.
The trio of midfielders in front of the back six not only let England easily down the sides of them, but they also gave up spaces in front of the centre backs. Lingard and Sterling waltzed in and out of these to add a third.
As England easily worked the ball out to Ashley Young to stretch the back six, huge gaps had already begun to appear in-between the trio of Panama midfielders. Sterling was already in one such space between the lines, Lingard would run in and join him.
Young had the easy job of laying the ball in to Lingard. A quick exchange of passes with Sterling then put him directly on to the Panama centre backs. What followed was one of the sweetest curling strikes you will see. Lingard arced the ball in to the top corner off the underside of the crossbar to score one of the goals of the tournament.
Training ground brilliance
Swiftly it had become England 3-0 Panama and the threat of a rout was on. John Stones then added a fourth from yet another set piece, once more lifted perfectly from the training pitch to the big stage.
The co-ordination between Trippier, Henderson, Kane, Sterling and Stones was brilliant to see. On top of this, the coverage England had across the penalty area to not only win first and second balls, but also to control rebounds was breath-taking.
As Henderson swept Trippier’s short pass into the box, England had already hemmed the Panama six-yard area to control the second ball and any resulting rebounds.
Raheem Sterling missed a sitter as Jaime Penedo saved his close-range header. However, John Stones was following up to put the rebound in to the roof of the net, sparking celebrations of not only the goal, but also a perfectly executed set play.
Panama pulling pays the penalty
Panama had obviously seen Tunisia get away with a fair amount of grappling and shirt pulling at England set pieces. Following suit was a strange plan given how much this had been flagged up in the media and to FIFA officials. Nevertheless, Panama grabbed, and in some cases mauled, Harry Kane, John Stones and Harry Maguire.
From the opening corner the referee had made it known he wouldn’t tolerate it, which made Anibal Godoy’s bear hug and flooring of Harry Kane even more criminal. Referee Grisha Ghead pointed straight to the spot and booked Godoy for his actions.
Harry Kane stepped forward once more and rifled the ball in to the exact same spot, in spite of Panama’s tactics to delay and put him off once again. Rapidly it had become England 5-0 Panama with Kane and Stones both on for a hat trick.
England back between the lines
After the interval there was a natural slowdown in England’s play with the match well and truly won. The Three Lions did add a sixth goal from the spaces between the lines given up by Panama’s trio of midfielders once again.
Winger Jose Luis Rodriguez was late in his role to drop back and cover his left back. As a result, Ruben Loftus-Cheek was in space between the lines to comfortably receive Kyle Walker’s pass.
Loftus-Cheek could cut inside just behind the Panama trio of midfielders to get in to a shooting position. He fired the ball at goal, which somehow deflected off Harry Kane’s heel, wrong-footing goalkeeper Jaime Penedo in the process.
Kane had a hat trick and England now had six!
Panama set pieces
Six up and cruising, England took their foot off the gas. Panama scored a consolation as their counter attacks forced set pieces.
First of all, Roman Torres missed a guilt-edged chance at the back post from a corner, which he should have finished. The next set piece was conceded as Raheem Sterling fouled Armando Cooper on a Panama counter attack. Ricardo Avila swung the dead ball in to the path of the arriving Felipe Baloy to slide in to the goal.
The Panama fans roared in to jubilant celebrations at their first World Cup goal, despite the score being England 6-1 Panama. Their participation in the tournament and the game were over, but that wasn’t going to stop them making the loudest cheer of the afternoon.
England 6-1 Panama overall
It’s hard not to get carried away with the play of this England team and how they are growing in to the tournament. Set pieces were not only once more the focal point for a win, but we are becoming a real force at them. Timing, spacing and rebound control are all considered at every dead ball situation and our set plays are becoming a thing of beauty to watch.
Final score: England 6-1 Panama.
MOTM: John Stones.