England v Panama: Kane treble helps Three Lions to World Cup rout
England roared into the last-16 of the World Cup with a game to spare thanks to a comprehensive 6-1 win over Panama in Nizhny Novgorod.
The Three Lions were heavy favourites going into the game and their class ultimately shone through despite the best efforts of the tournament debutants.
Harry Kane was the star of the show once again – the Tottenham Hotspur ace netting a hat-trick to go alongside a brace from John Stones and a lovely curled finish from Jesse Lingard.
Panama got a reward for their efforts late on when Felipe Baloy turned home Ricardo Avila’s free-kick to make it 6-1.
In fact it was Los Canaleros who almost opened the scoring, but Anibal Godoy could only slice wide after Lingard gave the ball away.
Hernan Dario Gomez’s side were left to rue that missed chance just two minutes later as England went in front. Kieran Trippier’s corner was met by the unmarked Stones who powered the ball home into the bottom corner to make it 1-0.
Little over 10 minutes later the lead was doubled from the penalty spot, Kane firing into the top corner after Lingard was brought down in the box.
Harry Maguire almost made it three on the half-hour mark but his looping header could only land on the roof of the net.
No matter, though, with 35 minutes played it was three. A lovely triangle between Raheem Sterling and Lingard resulted in the latter curling home from 25-yards-out to effectively seal the points.
At this point England smelt blood. Stones added a fourth soon after when Sterling’s header was parried to the defender who nodded home his second from close range.
And with three minutes to go until half-time, another Trippier corner caused havoc in the Panama penalty area, and with Godoy wrestling Kane to the ground once more, the referee had no choice but to point to the spot for the second time.
Kane duly stepped up to hammer home his second of the afternoon and give England a scarcely believable 5-0 lead at the interval.
Into the second-half and the Three Lions visibly eased off the gas after a first-45 which had seen Panama deploy some less than savoury tactics.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek continued to impress on his full World Cup debut and it was his craft that provided England with their sixth of the match on 61 minutes.
The Chelsea star galloped forward before cracking a shot which clipped the heel of Kane to wrong-foot Jaime Penedo and trickle home for 6-0.
Following a brief VAR check for offside, Kane was awarded the goal to become England’s third-ever World Cup finals hat-trick hero after Geoff Hurst in 1966 and Gary Lineker in 1986.
That was to be the 24-year-old’s final involvement, with Jamie Vardy brought on in place of the striker as Gareth Southgate sought to preserve the fitness of his main man. The effervescent Lingard was also withdrawn for Fabian Delph.
Jordan Henderson and Sterling both threatened late on, but the final word belonged to Panama.
Some slapdash England defending had threatened to lead to an unlikely Panamanian goal throughout the contest, and on 77 minutes that warning rang true.
A free-kick on the left was curled in low by Avila for the 37-year-old Baloy to slide home past Jordan Pickford. The goal sparked scenes of jubilation in the crowd as the travelling Panama contingent celebrated their first ever World Cup goal.
England will now face Belgium in Kaliningrad on Thursday knowing that a draw could be enough to see them finish top of Group G. The two nations are level on points and goal difference going into the match. Only the Three Lions’ superior fair-play record separates the two sides.
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