England kicked ass and took names in 6-1 blowout city win over Panama. The guys are level on points and goal difference with Belgium six points each and plus six in Group H.
Both Belgium and England advance.
The Guardians Daniel Taylor:” Perhaps we should start with a note of caution. The opposition will not always be this obliging and nobody, surely, can expect Harry Kane to keep scoring so prodigiously throughout the rest of the World Cup. Maybe England have peaked too soon. And no doubt the most overheard line over the coming days will be that, yes, it was only Panama. Stay calm, it was only Panama.
All the same, it was difficult to come away from this freewheeling win for Gareth Southgate’s increasingly convincing side without the overwhelming feeling that it has been a long time since an England team have played this freely.
It was their biggest World Cup victory and at half-time, no kidding, there were people in the press box flicking through the history books to find out how many more goals were needed to establish the biggest ever win in the history of this competition.
England were 5-0 ahead at that stage courtesy of two penalties from Kane, a pair of headed goals from John Stones and a beauty from Jesse Lingard. Kane’s hat-trick followed in the 63rd minute and, after that, it came as a jolt that the only other goal was delivered by a Panamanian boot.
Hungary’s 10-1 win against El Salvador in 1982 will have to be a target for another day. Thursday, perhaps, when Belgium are the opposition, to establish which team wins Group G.
Already, it is mission accomplished as far as qualification is concerned and, on this evidence, it is no exaggeration to say England should not fear anybody in the knockout stages.
Kane is now the leading scorer in the tournament, with five goals, and Gary Lineker is the only player, through all the ages, who has accumulated more World Cup goals for England. Yet the acclaim here should not just apply to the Tottenham striker when Stones has been so effective, when Kieran Trippier’s supply line has been so instrumental, and Lingard is emerging as a genuine category-A player.
England had not scored five first-half goals in any game since doing just that against Luxembourg in 1999, and it is only the third time since 1950, out of 24 attempts, they have begun a major tournament by winning back-to-back matches, emulating the World Cups of 1982 and 2006. It is still only two games but something important is happening. England are becoming the team their supporters want them to be. And it is great fun.
Panama’s ordeal did at least include the consolation of a 76th-minute goal and their supporters were still partying at the end. Ultimately, though, the imbalance of talent was far too great for a team fielding four players from Major League Soccer and others from the Romanian and Slovakian leagues. Panama had to resort to other measures. They argued with the officials. Their goalkeeper, Jaime Penedo, seemed to be threatening a one-man protest before Kane’s first penalty, and it was incredible, in particular, to see their tactics from England’s corners.
Even by modern standards, has there ever been another set of players so dedicated to restricting the mobility of their opponents? Their approach led to Kane’s penalty, to make it 5-0, when Aníbal Godoy manhandled him to the floor. Yet that was the norm, rather than the exception, for every corner and an argument could be made that Panama also got their just deserts for the opening goal.
For that one, Harry Maguire was brought to his knees twice because of Gabriel Gómez’s attempts to pin him down. Godoy was clinging to Kane like a mollusc on the side of a ship. Twice, the corner had to be delayed to sort out the chaos. Nobody, however, seemed to designate Stones as a potential danger. Trippier swung the ball over from the right and Stones powered in his header from eight yards.
Even by that early stage, eight minutes in, it had become clear it was going to be harder to like this Panama team than many of us imagined. Indeed, England ought to have had a penalty inside 90 seconds after Gómez swung an elbow into Lingard’s jaw. Gómez, a repeat offender, went down clutching his own face and the Egyptian referee, Gehad Grisha, was taken in by the deception. Later, an elbow from Armando Cooper bloodied Maguire’s nose. Román Torres responded to Maguire’s complaints by flicking his opponent’s nose and pushing in his forehead in the manner of a rutting stag. Southgate had told his players not to react to any provocation and they did not let him down.
Lingard’s was the pick of them all, exchanging passes with Raheem Sterling before running across the line of the penalty area, left to right, and curling a shot that went in off the underside of the crossbar. Yet the fourth goal was brilliantly worked, too. This time, Trippier played a free-kick short to Henderson. A first-time cross was headed down by Kane and Stones put in the rebound after Penedo had blocked Sterling’s close-range effort.
The second half was an exercise in damage limitation for Panama and, to give them their due, Kane’s hat-trick goal was a fluke, Ruben Loftus-Cheek letting fly from 20 yards and the ball striking his teammate on the heel to loop in.
England’s lingering imperfections were briefly exposed when Felipe Baloy, one of Panama’s substitutes, turned in a free-kick with an outstretched leg. Yet Southgate and his players can still enjoy the view from the top of Group G, with the same points and goal difference as Belgium but ahead on fair-play rules, and the manager was pumping his fists at the end, no matter that it was only a few days since he dislocated his shoulder. Nobody should get too carried away but, good heavens, it can be hard sometimes.