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Harry Kane’s hat-trick saw England march into the knockout stages of the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Sunday, as they trounced Panama 6-1 at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in a remarkable game.
The Three Lions were 5-0 up at half-time. John Stones opened the scoring, and Harry Kane grabbed another from the penalty spot. Jesse Lingard then fired in a pearler of a third, before Stones capped off a brilliant set-piece routine and Kane thudded home another penalty, with the Panamanian defence capitulating.
Kane completed his treble after the break, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s shot diverted off him. The Tottenham Hotspur man is now the competition’s leading scorer.
Panama did have one moment to savour, as Felipe Baloy netted their first ever World Cup goal.
Belgium, who England are level with on six points, made a statement in Group G on Saturday, when they hammered Tunisia 5-2 to move to the top of the table.
Kane Can Beat Ronaldo, Lukaku to Golden Boot
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Some of the world’s best forwards have come to the party at the World Cup, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku. Kane is proving he belongs in that company.
After his two goals against Tunisia, Kane was on target twice from the penalty spot against Panama in the first period, thudding two thumping efforts into the top corner to put him on four goals for the tournament.
In the second half, he knew little about his third, as Loftus-Cheek’s shot flicked off his heel and beyond the goalkeeper. Kane is now out on his own with five goals:
The quality of his penalties was the mark of a man who is supremely confident at the moment too, as the striker aimed both efforts into almost identical parts of the net.
David Jones of Sky Sports was getting excited by the performance of the England captain and thinking back to 1966:
With Kane in one of his purple patches, you wouldn’t rule it out. In recent years, the striker has shown that he can score so many goals in gluts, and fortunately for England, he appears to be in the middle of one.
In this form, there aren’t many forwards in the game who can match the prolific Englishman. You sense there may be a few more goals to follow for the Tottenham man before he heads home from Russia.
Dominant England Cemented as World Cup Dark Horse
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There will be tougher tests to come for England, although you wouldn’t begrudge supporters getting excited after watching this display.
Of course, the opposition were poor, but football blogger Hesham Bilal-Hafiz put the incredible first half into context:
Hesham Bilal-Hafiz @hesham786
Don’t care how poor Panama are, Belgium only scored 3 in 90 minutes vs them, to score 5 goals before half time is absolutely superb from England. Never thought I’d see the day England scoring this freely in a major tournament. #worldcup
In recent years, England have been miserable to watch at tournaments, as illustrious names have frozen on the big stage and the team have played sterile football. Under Gareth Southgate, the shackles are off and the team are fun to watch again.
Results like this may not strike fear into the rest of the competing teams, but it’ll fill this young Three Lions side with so much belief. At the moment, they’re not an outfit anyone would relish coming up against.
Petulant Panama Won’t Be Missed in Knockout Round
Having made it to the World Cup for the first time, the inspiring story of Panama has been one told frequently in the buildup to the competition. But they won’t have earned many admirers with the way they conducted themselves here.
While their performance was poor, the way they acted was petulant, as they disagreed with decisions, got in the faces of England players and defended recklessly.
Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph was not impressed with their behaviour:
Paul Hayward @_PaulHayward
Panama’s fans were very cool and stylish in town last night. Their team are hot-headed rabble. Five-nil at half-time. Where are we, doctor?
The manner in which Panama players hauled England attackers down on corners, leading to the penalty for the fifth goal, was also so naive. The Match of the Day Twitter account summed up their approach:
In the end, it was a day to forget for the Central American outfit. If they take the same attitude into their final group game against Tunisia, they’ll have nothing to show for their maiden World Cup outing.
The Group G sides are back in action again on Thursday at the World Cup, with England taking on Belgium to determine who will top the group.
While Panama’s meeting with Tunisia has nothing riding on it in terms of progression, it has the potential to be a historic day for one team. Tunisia haven’t won a World Cup match since 1978, whereas Panama are still chasing their first point in the tournament.