There is no such thing, when it comes to World Cup betting, as starting too soon. For example, writing this article well over six months before the fact. For another example, England head coach Gareth Southgate has already begun reading up on his World Cup rivals, including tournament opener Panama. Of which he said he knew “a lot less about” than top-seeded Belgium. “Sadly yes, that is the sort of thing I do in the evening,” Southgate said. With scones, clotted cream, and jam, one would presume. It wouldn’t be Devonshire tea otherwise.
24 June 2018 15:00 MSK (UTC+3)
England versus Panama
Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod
“Everybody (including of course people betting on the World Cup) knows that against those two teams in particular [Panama and Tunisia] we will be favorites to win and we have to live with that,” he added, as opposed to, say, “Brazil and Sweden who are two teams we’ve struggled forever to play against”. Southgate has already been watching footage of the Panamanians. They have qualified for a World Cup for the first time in their history. Expectations are an all time high for England and its batch of young players. Southgate believes they can handle it, though. “As an England player and an England manager, you have got to live with the expectation and be prepared to handle that. If we can’t do that we are in the wrong job and on the wrong stage. If we can get the results we need to progress from the group, which we believe we can, then the journey can take us anywhere.”
Don’t let’s forget about the potential World Cup betting upset. Fellow Brit Gary Stempel has warned England about underestimating Panama. “They will be highly motivated and won’t have any kind of inferiority complex whatsoever,” Stempel said. He managed the Panamaniacs in 2008-09. “They are mentally very strong, they won’t be subdued by the occasion, they will go and enjoy it. They have this street football mentality, where they learn their football, it’s rough and ready. They don’t care. Going back to the tough upbringing, you had to survive in very difficult conditions, conditions that many people in England would not even dream of. And that gives a certain type of strength, they don’t care basically. That is an advantage and I guarantee they will not be star-struck at all.” Additionally, Panama did have a canal 80 years before England did.
It wouldn’t be the first time a Concacaf team gets the best of Albion. England lost to the U.S. 1-0 in 1950. Stemple thinks that would be nothing compared to a loss to Panama, though. “It wouldn’t compare, this would be number one. This is a country that doesn’t have a professional league, that started playing football in baseball grounds with the mound in the middle of the pitch. They call it a professional league here but you’ve got players earning about £300 a month.” That’s a lot of backhanded compliments for someone who’s supposedly sticking out for them. If anything, that should make England an even bigger World Cup betting favorite.