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4. Hosts Russia defy expectations If you thumb through The National's predictions made before the finals, you will see that hosts Russia were unanimously the choice of our so-called experts to be the biggest disappointment at the tournament. How wrong could we be? Russia backed up an opening-night hammering of a hapless Saudi Arabia with a 3-1 victory over Mohamed Salah's Egypt to become the first nation to reach the knockout stages. Denis Cheryshev wasn't even in Russia's starting line-up against the Saudis but his introduction following a first-half injury to Alan Dzagoev transformed the Russians from slow and functioning to well-oiled machine. His two goals alone in that game, the first a beautiful finish following a superb dink over a sliding Saudi defender, the second a volley with the outside of his left foot, set the tone for what has been a superb tournament so far for the hosts.
Panama's threat is a very obvious one - and one that will revive painful memories for England. Southgate's side must be wary of conceding throw-ins in dangerous positions as this will be bring the danger of Adolfo Machado into play. He has a trademark looping long throw and England need only to look back to Euro 2016 to know the pain this can inflict. Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson caused havoc for England in Nice using this ploy, leading to Ragnar Sigurdsson's goal. Panama lack serious quality but they are experienced, organised and physical. 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. Just watch the long throws.