Marcus Rashford hails improved team spirit in England camp


Gareth ticks so numerous boxes that the best that I've worked with tick.

Reduced to a watching brief at Euro 2016, he was a standby player at the last World Cup and watched Roy Hodgson's men collapse in the group stage from afar.

And the England star has hit out at those who criticise him, adding: "If you grew up the same way I grew up, don't listen to what certain tabloids want to tell you".

Raheem Sterling's absence from England's team may only be temporary if the side revealed on assistant manager Steve Holland's team-sheet is correct - but Marcus Rashford has the chance to turn up the pressure as he prepares to get his opportunity against Panama.

After the furore over Sterling's gun tattoo and then his late arrival at England's St George's Park training camp before leaving for Russia, Southgate was very supportive of the player in public.

Sterling was short of his best in Volgograd and was replaced by Rashford.

England will play in the warmest temperatures they have faced so far in Russian Federation, with the mercury soaring in their next host city.

They may adopt a more positive approach as this is now a game they need to win - but the smart money is on coach Hernan Dario Gomez adopting an initial "safety first" approach.

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While Ruben Loftus-Cheek was "selected" in place of Dele Alli, who missed training because of a thigh injury.

Harry Kane was the hero scoring twice, with the victor coming in extra time.

In its first game at the World Cup, Panama lost 3-0 to the highly-rated Belgium team after holding the Belgians 0-0 through the first half.

But Southgate said his notes do not necessarily reflect his choice of his starting team. That extra beef in midfield is more likely to be showcased in the final group game with Belgium, where either Delph or Dier would be candidates for a starting role.

Bizarrely, Panama's age is as much of a factor as the team's inexperience in major tournaments. "The more I play with him and train him the more it should rub off".

One thing Panama's team has resolved, they said, is the emotion of playing at the World Cup following the thrilling success in qualifying.

Speaking to BBC One after the Tunisia win, Kane said: "We have shown resilience for a while now since the gaffer come in".