England recorded their biggest-ever victory at the World Cup finals by crushing Panama 6-1 at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium this afternoon, sealing their place in the last 16 of Russia 2018 in the process.
Five of the Three Lions’ six goals were scored in the first half, as they netted more than four times in the showpiece competition for the first time in their history.
In scoring three times, Harry Kane became the first player to bag a brace or more in his first two World Cup appearances since Poland’s Grzegorz Lato, who went on to win the Golden Boot in 1974.
England have the tournament’s top scorer in their ranks and join next opponents Belgium level on points and goal difference at the top of the Group G standings, leaving top spot up for grabs in Kaliningrad on Thursday.
An incredible afternoon for England may have turned out a lot different had Anibal Godoy not skied a glorious opportunity for Panama from the first chance of the contest.
Los Canaleros were targeting their opponents’ left and could argue that they played the better football prior to England’s opener, which arrived via the head of John Stones eight minutes in.
Panama had already been warned about shirt-pulling inside the box prior to Kieran Trippier taking the corner, and had Stones not guided his header into the far corner the referee would have pointed to the spot for one of a number of infringements.
Lessons were not learned, though, and a combination of Fidel Escobar and Roman Torres took Jesse Lingard to the ground after the forward spun in behind.
Kane stepped up and emphatically sent his penalty into the top corner of the net, leaving Jaime Penedo with no chance despite guessing the right way.
Yoel Barcenas and Jose Rodriguez came close either side of England’s second goal, but any hope they had of growing into the game were killed off 36 minutes in through Lingard’s long-range curler following a quick exchange of passes with Raheem Sterling.
Panama, guilty of roughing up their opponents throughout the one-sided affair, were then punished after conceding a free kick 40 minutes in as Stones converted a close-range rebound once Sterling’s shot was kept out by Penedo.
That came from a training-ground routine to the delight of Gareth Southgate, who was given further reason to cheer when the fifth arrived 45 minutes in, again from a Kane penalty into the same corner after Godoy comically wrestled the striker to the ground.
After becoming just the fifth side in World Cup history to net five times in the first half of a match, the second period was all about conserving energy for England in the stifling heat.
When the first shot of the second half did arrive, however, it led to the Three Lions’ sixth goal of the afternoon as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s shot clipped the heel of Kane and caught out Penedo for the hat-trick-clinching moment.
Kane left the field seconds later, soon followed by Trippier who looked to be carrying a slight knock – the only downside for Southgate on the day of his biggest career win.
Result: Kane nets hat-trick in Panama demolition
Jordan Henderson fizzed an acrobatic volley wide and Torres missed a sitter at the other end, but then came a proud moment for the Central American nation as they netted their first goal at the finals.
Ricardo Avila sent in a free kick and veteran defender Felipe Baloy, earning his 102nd cap, got to it first to end Jordan Pickford’s hopes of keeping a clean sheet and giving the minnows a little something to celebrate.
ENGLAND (3-4-2-1): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier (Rose 70′), Henderson, Loftus-Cheek, Young; Lingard (Delph 63′), Sterling; Kane (Vardy 63′)
PANAMA (4-5-1): Penedo; Murillo, R Torres, Escobar, Davis; Barcenas (Arroyo 69′), Cooper, Gomez (Baloy 69′), Godoy (Avila 62′), J.Rodriguez; Perez