SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez praised his side’s gritty performance in a 3-0 World Cup loss to Belgium on Monday but the five yellow cards they picked up will not stop his team adopting a similarly rugged approach when they face England.
Panama were expected to struggle in their tournament debut against a side 52 places above them in the world rankings, but they held their own until just after halftime in the Group G opener.
Dries Mertens broke the deadlock with a crashing volley and Romelu Lukaku’s double made the scoreline more reflective of Belgium’s superiority.
“It is a result that can’t be positive because we lost 3-0 but they could have won by a landslide,” Gomez told reporters.
“When you consider where their players play and where our players play the difference wasn’t that great. I think we did a good job. Some people thought we would lose by seven goals but it was only 3-0.”
The game was marked by 35 fouls and eight yellow cards, five for Panama and three for Belgium but neither side could be accused of dirty play and Gomez said England could expect more of the same in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday.
“We are a team that is very organized, we play tactically,” Gomez said.
“Sometimes we may look tough but the other teams are tough and physically strong as well. You know the English team are strong, they can play even 100 minutes and we have to fight to manage 90 minutes at the same pace the Europeans play.”
“We will try to recover and we will keep growing and playing with dignity.”
Reporting by Andrew Downie, editing by Ed Osmond