Panama defender Harold Cummings has raised the prospect of a physical World Cup battle with England by warning them they will “play hard” in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday.
England boss Gareth Southgate has told his players about Panama’s rugged approach after the Central American minnows picked up five bookings in their tournament opener against Belgium.
Panama have developed a reputation as rough and physical opponents, and Southgate has instructed his players not to be intimidated as England seek to build on their opening World Cup victory against Tunisia.
“We are going there to play hard,” Cummings told Press Association Sport ahead of the Group G clash.
“We are going there to compete. We will do our job against any team we face.
“England have players that are competing at a really high level, and I think that is an advantage they have over us.
“It is going to be man versus man and we are not going to look at the names on the back of the England jerseys.”
England, ranked 12th in the world, are 43 places higher than Panama in the FIFA standings but Hernan Dario Gomez’s side stood up for themselves against star-studded Belgium in Sochi on Monday.
The Red Devils were kept at bay in a niggly first half before Dries Mertens opened the scoring within seconds of the re-start.
Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku scored twice to put some gloss on Belgium’s victory.
But Cummings, who plays for American club the San Jose Earthquakes in Major League Soccer, believes Panama can stifle the threat of Harry Kane and company.
Kane scored twice in the opening 2-1 win over Tunisia and the England captain might see Panama as an opportunity to boost his bid to win the tournament’s Golden Boot.
“Harry Kane is one of the best number nines in the world, so it is going to be a tough job,” said Cummings, who has made the World Cup after breaking his leg in an accident at home last year.
“But we have prepared for this and all of us on the national team have worked hard to take on this challenge.
“It is a good platform for us to show the world that Panama is ready for this level of competition.”