(Reuters) - Panama midfielder Jose Luis Rodriguez believes England will not pose as big a threat as the Belgium side that defeated the Central Americans 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 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.”
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.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien