England face World Cup debutants Panama on Sunday in a David-versus-Goliath clash.
Here, FP compares the two nations ahead of their meeting in Nizhny Novgorod.
The estimated population of England is 55,268,067, according to the Office for National Statistics, which makes it one of the 30 most populated countries in the world. In terms of nations at the World Cup, only nine have greater populations. In contrast, Panama is home to just over 4million people, which the United Nations estimates is fewer than Ireland and only marginally more than Moldova and Georgia. Uruguay and Iceland are the only two less populated nations competing in Russia this summer.
Several players in Panama’s squad ply their trade in Major League Soccer, where players’ salaries are published. Seattle Sounders defender Roman Torres, who scored the qualifying-clinching goal that booked his nation’s place in Russia, is paid 645,000 US dollars (£485,620) in total annual compensation. Michael Murillo, selected at full-back in Panama’s first game, makes only 88,754 USD (£66,823) per year with New York Red Bulls. In contrast, England captain Harry Kane’s new deal with Tottenham is rumoured to be worth £200,000 a week – around three times as much as Murillo makes in a year.
Liga Panamena Futbol has 10 clubs and three of Panama’s 23-man squad at the World Cup play their football in their domestic league. Independiente won their first league title last season and their striker Jose Fajardo, who scored 19 times but is not in Russia, recently trained with MLS side Dallas. In contrast, England’s Premier League is viewed as one of the world’s most premier divisions. Anibal Godoy, likely to line up in midfield against the Three Lions on Sunday, told Press Association Sport that “every Panama player watches the Premier League every week”.
In terms of average age, Panama have one of the oldest squads in Russia and they lean heavily on their experienced players. Blas Perez is expected to once more lead the line at the age of 37, though Jose Luis Rodriguez, who has just turned 20, could be included again having impressed on his debut against Northern Ireland in the build up to this tournament. Even their manager Hernan Dario Gomez is managing at his third World Cup. In contrast, England boss Gareth Southgate has selected a relatively green group in terms of international experience.
Famous sporting figures
Football may viewed as the major sport in Panama this summer, yet they are more renowned for the three Bs – baseball, boxing and basketball. Mariano Rivera was a 13-time All Star with Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees, boxer Roberto Duran won world titles at four different weight classes and Panama City-born Rolando Blackman made such an impact with the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks his number 22 jersey is retired. Irving Saladino is the only Panamanian to ever win an Olympic gold when he claimed the long jump title in Beijing in 2008. England, meanwhile, has a wealth of world champions, Olympic gold medallists and, over half a century ago, even a World Cup-winning football team in its history.
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