World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: Panama vs USA

Competition: 2018 World Cup Qualifier – Panama vs. USA
Venue: Estadio Rommel Fernández – Tuesday, March 28 – 22:00 ET (03:00 BST) 
Match Odds: Panama 12/5 – Draw 11/5 – USA 21/20

Match Preview

Panama host the USA in a crucial World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night, with just one place and one point separating the sides going into the fourth round of fixtures in a fiercely competitive Hexagonal.

Panama are one of CONCACAF’s toughest sides to break down. They lost 1-0 to Trinidad on Friday night, with Kevin Molino’s goal the only strike they have conceded in three qualifiers so far.

They opened the Hex with a 1-0 win at Honduras and followed it up by holding Mexico to a 0-0 draw at home. Panama have never qualified for a World Cup but sit just three points off Mexico going into Tuesday’s games and know that they will remain on track if they can avoid defeat against the USA.

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That will be no easy task, given how the US men’s national team dismantled Honduras at Avaya Stadium on Friday night. The manner of the 6-0 win in Bruce Arena’s first competitive game since taking over as head coach once again in November was unexpected but incredibly impressive.

Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey tore the Honduran defence apart, while Michael Bradley thrived in the lone defensive-midfield role, even grabbing a goal himself as the USA sent out a statement of intent to their CONCACAF rivals.

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Few changes are expected for Tuesday’s trip to Panama City and the aim will be for the US to try and score early to force the hosts to come forward. Their approach worked perfectly against Honduras and will surely be adopted once again here.

The challenge will now be to follow that result up with another strong performance as they look to move into the top three of the Hex. Tuesday’s game will be the last qualifier until June so Arena knows the team must leave Panama with at least a point.

The USA have never lost a World Cup qualifier to Panama but have not beaten them in their last two meetings, both coming in the 2015 Gold Cup with the Panamanians beating the USMNT on penalties in the 3rd place playoff.

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Team News

MLS fans will be familiar with a number of faces in the Panama lineup on Tuesday. Former LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo will be looking to keep the US out, helped by Seattle’s stalwart Roman Torres. Toronto’s Armando Cooper will likely play alongside San Jose’s Anibal Godoy in midfield, with former Quakes teammate Alberto Quintero looking to cause trouble from out wide. Former MLS strikers Blas Perez and Gabriel Torres will be looking to make an impact, but it will likely have to come from the bench.

Bruce Arena will have to change his starting lineup as Sebastian Lletget and John Brooks are both at home dealing with injuries picked up on Friday. Jordan Morris has left the squad as his ankle problem means he can’t take to the field, so he’s returned to Seattle for treatment. Alejandro Bedoya is likely to come into the starting lineup in place of Lletget, while Jermaine Jones is available again after serving his suspension and might get a start. 

Key Points

Panama’s last five: W/L/W/W/L

USA’s last five: L/L/D/W/W

Key Stat: Panama have gone nine games without conceding more than a single goal in a match. They have only let in four goals in those nine games.

Key Player: Clint Dempsey – Fresh from scoring a hat-trick in Friday’s 6-0 demolition over Honduras, Dempsey will be looking to fire the USA to a second consecutive win in an equally important game. He has found the net in two of the last three meetings with Panama and will expect to cause their solid defence some serious problems on Tuesday.

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Score Prediction

Panama 1-1 USA – This looks set to be a much trickier contest than Friday night’s for the USMNT but they will not expect to leave Panama with anything less than a point. They have the quality to beat Panama but have been tied at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes the last two times they have faced them and might just have to settle for the same result here in what is a vital game for both sides.

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World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: USA vs Honduras

Competition: Major League Soccer – USA vs. Honduras
Venue: Avaya Stadium – Friday, March 24th – 22:30 ET (02:30 GMT
Match Odds: USA 4/9 – Draw 14/5 – Honduras 13/2

Match Preview

The USA’s World Cup hopes are hanging precariously in the balance ahead of a huge qualifier against Honduras on Friday night at San Jose Earthquakes’ Avaya Stadium in California, with Bruce Arena taking charge of his first competitive game since replacing Jurgen Klinsmann as the head coach.

Klinsmann’s final game in charge came in the US national team’s most recent qualification game – a devastating 4-0 loss at Costa Rica, leaving them bottom of the Hexagonal after two matches. A loss to Honduras on Friday would make it almost impossible for the USA to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in just over a year.

No team has ever qualified for the game’s biggest tournament after picking up just one point from their opening three Hexagonal matches, so not only do the US need to avoid defeat, they need to take the game to Honduras and breakdown what is expected to be a stern defensive setup.

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Los Catrachos sit fourth in the Hex after winning one and losing one so far. They opened with a surprise 1-0 home loss to Panama but picked up in their second game to beat Trinidad & Tobago 3-1.

They will be looking to follow that result up with at least another point in their first road game here. If they can avoid defeat to the US on Friday, the Hondurans will no doubt be feeling a lot more confident about their chances of playing in Russia next summer.

They have some dangerous attacking assets that MLS fans – and Houston Dynamo supporters in particular – will be familiar with already this season. Romell Quioto, Boniek Garcia and Alberth Elis can all create chances out of nothing and will be looking to hit an injury-stricken USA backline on the counter wherever possible.

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Bruce Arena has been dealt a few major injury blows in the lead up to this pivotal game, with Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson all sidelined. All three would have been expected to start and so adjustments will have to be made.

Add in the fact that Jermaine Jones is suspended and Jordan Morris is struggling with an ankle injury picked up in last Sunday’s win over the Red Bulls and it’s easy to start questioning the team’s chances of getting three points on the board.

That said, the US have more than enough depth to cover for the losses and have no fewer than 19 MLS players in the squad. All of them should be fresh as we’re only three weeks into the regular season and that could prove to be a major boost on the night. 

Christian Pulisic is also set to start his third-straight qualifier and the 18-year-old Dortmund star comes into the game high in confidence after starring in the Bundesliga and Champions League in recent weeks.

Victory is expected. A draw would leave the USMNT with an enormous task on their hands. But defeat would surely spell catastrophe for the nation’s hopes of qualifying. It’s an enormous game and one the hosts have to deliver in.

Team News

As mentioned above, Arena has been hit with a number of injuries to key players based in Europe. Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson are all out. Jordan Morris is a doubt, but could make an impact off the bench, while Jermaine Jones is suspended. Jozy Altidore looks certain to lead the attack, with Clint Dempsey in line for a return the starting lineup after recovering from his irregular heartbeat problem that ruled him out of action for the backend of 2016. It’s unclear how the defence will lineup but it’s likely we’ll see Geoff Cameron fill in at right-back, with John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez pairing up in the centre of defence and Jorge Villafaña operating down the left side.

Honduras will look to their MLS-based stars to shine brightly at Avaya Stadium on Friday. Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis offer devastating pace, while Maynor Figueroa and Roger Espinoza provide them with experienced defensive cover, and that will surely be needed as the USA have to take the game to the visitors.

Key Points

USA’s last five: D/L/L/D/W

Honduras’s last five: D/W/L/L/W

Key Stat: The USMNT have only lost one of their last 31 World Cup qualifiers on home soil, although that did come in their latest home game against Mexico back in November.

Key Player: Christian Pulisic – The Dortmund winger has been in excellent form over the last few weeks, scoring three times in five games in March. He is young enough to be able to handle the volume of games but will be tested with handling intense pressure in a huge game for his country on Friday night. He might only be 18, but Pulisic has already proven he is a special talent and will look to shine here.

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Score Prediction

USA 2-1 Honduras – This is likely to be an extremely nervy evening for USA supporters but one that should end in an all-important victory given the quality of the team. There are some key absentees but Bruce Arena has enough tools at his disposal to get the job done. Honduras will be a real threat on the counter but ultimately the hosts should pull through.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: England vs Malta

Competition: International Friendly – England vs. Malta 

Venue: Wembley Stadium – Saturday, October 8 – 17:00 BST (12:00 ET)

Match Odds: England 1/50 – Draw 20/1 – Malta 50/1

Match Preview

England welcome Malta to Wembley on Saturday afternoon in the second round of World Cup qualifying fixtures in Group F.

The host nation are second in the group heading into this game, behind only by goal difference. This is an opportunity for England to pick up three points and improve their goal tally in a game their are expected to win comfortably.

Since their opening win of the qualifying rounds England have parted company with Sam Allardyce for his ‘inappropriate conduct’ in a meeting with undercover reporters. England started their campaign with a late 1-0 win over Slovakia and anything but 100% after the second round of fixtures will be deemed inexcusable.

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Gareth Southgate takes interim charge of the national team for the first time since replacing Allardyce, he has been promoted from the U21 boss.

Malta were thumped 5-1 by Group F leaders Scotland in their opening game of the qualifying campaign, seeing their winless run extended to 11 games.

Pietro Ghedin faces the unenviable task of trying to frustrate teams in the group, with his side widely expected to finish bottom and be on the receiving end of many defeats by a high number of goals.

Malta are ranked 176th in the world rankings, their last win came in 2015 and they have conceded 14 goals in their last four games.

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Team News

Southgate announced Wayne Rooney would remain England captain during his time in charge. Phil Jagielka, Raheem Sterling and Glen Johnson pulled out of the squad through injury, leaving the door open for Michael Keane to earn his first cap for England. Andros Townsend replaced Sterling but Southgate isn’t expected to call in a replacement for Jagielka.

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Malta have no real ‘household name’ players in their squad. What you can expect is their starting XI to work extremely hard and ensure they earn the respect of the Wembley crowd.

Key Points

England’s last five: D/W/D/L/W

Malta’s last five: D/L/L/D/L

Key Stat: This is Gareth Southgate’s first game as head coach of England’s senior team.

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Key Player: Dele Alli – The Tottenham Hotspur star is full of enthusiasm and talent. He will be hoping to express himself on the ball in this game and make it one to remember.

Score Prediction

England 4-0 Malta – To say England are favourites is an understatement. They simply have to pick up a strong win here and ensure they keep a clean sheet. If they score a couple of early goals Malta’s confidence will be even lower than when the game kicks off, but they have to treat their opposition with respect and go about their business in a professional way.

World Cup Qualifier Preview and Prediction: Slovakia vs England

Competition: 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier – Slovakia vs. England

Venue: Stadion Antona Malatinskeho – Sunday, September 4 – 17:00 BST (12:00 ET)

Match Odds: Slovakia 3/1 – Draw 12/5 – England 1/1

Match Preview

Slovakia host England on Sunday afternoon as the qualification cycle for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia begins this weekend.

England are entering another new era as Sam Allardyce will take charge of his first international match since replacing Roy Hodgson in the summer.

These two sides faced off in their final group stage game at Euro 2016 in June, playing out a dull 0-0 draw. Slovakia are still looking to beat the Three Lions for the first time, having lost three in a row before the draw in France two months ago.

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Slovakia picked up just one win at the Euro’s and were eliminated by Germany after being thumped 3-0 in the Round of 16. They begin their qualification campaign looking to qualify for just their second World Cup, after only previously taking part in South Africa in 2010.

Slovakia have won just two of their last eight competitive internationals, so it’s no surprise they enter Sunday’s games as underdogs, with England expected to start life under ‘Big Sam’ with a win. But that’s far from guaranteed, considering the shameful 2-1 defeat to Iceland the last time these English players were together.

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A calamitous Euro 2016 campaign saw Roy Hodgson lose his job, with the defeat to Iceland one of the lowest points in English football history. A much-improved performance is needed this weekend to get the nation back onside.

Allardyce hasn’t had much of a chance to work with his players and so it will be intriguing to see how they respond to the new manager this weekend. The only England manager to not win his first game was Sir Alf Ramsey in 1963, so Big Sam knows the pressure is on.

Team News

Slovakia’s main threat remains Marek Hamsik. He is one of the most creative players in European football and manager Jan Kozak will look to get the best out of him here if Slovakia are to stand a chance. Former Liverpool centre-back Martin Skrtel will be hoping to keep England out as he did successfully at the Euro’s.

Sam Allardyce has already announced his first England starting lineup, making just three changes to the team that lost to Iceland in the Round of 16 a couple of months ago. Chris Smalling, Dele Alli and Daniel Sturridge are all dropped, with John Stones, Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana replacing that trio. Wayne Rooney will captain the side once more and will become England’s most-capped outfield player on Sunday. Joe Hart remains No.1 despite leaving Manchester City on Deadline Day.

England XI to face Slovakia: Hart, Walker, Cahill, Stones, Rose, Dier, Henderson, Lallana, Rooney, Sterling, Kane.

Key Points

Slovakia’s last five: D/L/W/D/L

England’s last five: W/D/W/D/L

Key Stat: England have not lost a World Cup Qualifier since October 2009. That is the Three Lions’ only defeat in their last 22 WC qualification outings.

Key Player: Wayne Rooney – There are many who feel the Manchester United man needs to now be taken out of the international picture, but Allardyce has kept him as captain and Rooney will become the outright leader for appearances made by an outfield player on Sunday. He is currently tied with David Beckham on 115 caps. A good start to life under the new manager is vital for Rooney if he is to remain a key player for England.

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Score Prediction

Slovakia 0-2 England – A horrendous end to Euro 2016 may still be in the minds of these players and fans alike, but the chance for a fresh start under Allardyce should see the England players lifted for the trip to Slovakia this weekend. The Slovakians haven’t been in great form in 2016 and will likely be penned in for the majority of the game. They defended valiantly against the Three Lions in the summer but are unlikely to be able to equal that. England to win, though it might not be a walk in the park.