Harry Kane’s hat-trick inspired England to their biggest ever World Cup win as Gareth Southgate’s men sealed progress to the last 16 with a 6-1 demolition of Panama that puts their rivals on notice.
Things finally appear to be looking up for an England side who were humiliated by Iceland at Euro 2016 and eliminated with a game to spare at the 2014 World Cup.
They secured progress to the knockout phase with a thrilling World Cup win that will live long in the memory as Kane’s hat-trick complemented John Stones’ double and a Jesse Lingard stunner against shambolic Panama.
Substitute Felipe Baloy netted the Central Americans’ first ever goal at the finals but it could not take the gloss off a Three Lions win which was as comprehensive as it was impressive, setting up an intriguing shoot-out with Belgium for top spot on Thursday – a match Roberto Martinez’s men will surely enter with increased trepidation.
After displaying their character to seal a last-gasp win against Tunisia, England kept a cool head to deal with Panama’s rough-house tactics in sweltering Nizhny Novgorod, emphatically adding the clinical edge Southgate had called for after Monday’s game.
Stones headed home his first two international goals in an opening period which saw Kane smash home two spot-kicks and Lingard curl home from the edge of the penalty area.
England made light work of a Panama side focused on unsettling rather than outplaying them, with captain Kane becoming his country’s third player to score a World Cup finals hat-trick when the ball went in off him early in the second half.
Baloy made history late on but it did not take the edge off a victory to cherish – just the third time the Three Lions had won their opening two World Cup games.