England recorded their biggest win at a FIFA World Cup and booked their place in the last 16 of this year’s finals in Russia by thrashing Panama 6-1 in Nizhny Novgorod.
The Three Lions comfortably secured their place in the knockout stages with a game to spare ahead of Thursday night’s final Group G clash against Belgium thanks to a hat-trick from Harry Kane, a brace from defender John Stones and a spectacular strike from Jesse Lingard.
Following his opening brace against Tunisia last week, Tottenham Hotspur striker Kane is now the tournament’s leading goalscorer with five strikes from his opening two games, captaining England to back-to-back victories in Russia.
But it was centre-back Stones, 24, who opened the floodgates inside eight minutes with a neat header from a corner, before skipper Kane bagged his first of the afternoon on 22 minutes from the penalty spot after midfielder Lingard was bundled over in the box.
The Manchester United winger, 25, then dusted himself off to get on the scoresheet himself with a wonderful curling effort from 25 yards out, before Stones completed his brace with another header from very close-range, and then hitman Kane made it 5-0 break the interval with another spot-kick after being wrestled to the ground.
The Spurs star fortuitously completed his treble 17 minutes into the second-half, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s long-range effort deflected off Kane and past Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
But the biggest cheer of the match belonged to the minnows, as substitute Felipe Baloy scored Panama’s first-ever goal at a World Cup following a neat finish from a free-kick on 78 minutes, where England failed to execute the offside trap.
However, the margin of victory for Gareth Southgate’s side surpassed the 3-0 wins over Poland and Paraguay in Mexico in 1986, and against Denmark in 2002, as England advanced to the knockout stages in ease.
It is only the third time the Three Lions have won their opening group stage games at a World Cup finals, having also done so in 1982 and 2006.
Today’s six-goal haul meant England netted as many goals in this game as in their previous seven World Cup outings combined.
As for individual records, Manchester City’s Stones became the first England defender to score two goals in a World Cup match, and captain Kane is only the third England player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup game, after Geoff Hurst in the 1966 final and Gary Lineker in 1986.
Next up for Southgate’s men is Belgium at Kaliningrad Stadium on Thursday (19:00) to determine who tops Group G heading into the last 16.
Belgium have similarly defeated Tunisia and Panama, plus scored exactly eight goals and conceded twice in the process, exactly like England, meaning the Three Lions only sit top of the table currently due to having fewer yellow cards than The Red Devils so far this tournament.
If they draw the final game, it will go down to disciplinary records to decide who finishes first.
Written by Dan Church Follow @DJChurch94