Wow! We all expected England to beat Panama but few dared predict they’d do it with this much style. Gareth Southgate made the one enforced change to his side brining in Ruben Loftus-Cheek for the injured Dele Alli which meant against expectation Raheem Sterling was retained.
Panama started quite well and made a couple of forays forward before England found their rhythm and once they’d forced a corner Panama were in deep trouble. The referee made it clear he wouldn’t tolerate the wrestling moves Tunisia and Switzerland got away with last week. It lead to delays in taking the corner as Panama were forced to change tactics and in the confusion John Stones got free in the centre of the box to arrow a header into the bottom left from Kieran Trippier’s corner 1-0 after 8 minutes.
England had control and began pushing more players forward as Jordan Henderson dictated play from the centre. After 20 minutes to was Trippier again causing trouble- he dinked a ball over the Panama defence for Jesse Lingard who was brough down for a stonewall penalty. It took 2 minutes for the decision to be clarified by VAR not that effected Harry Kane with blasted the spot kick into the roof of the net 2-0. Lingard & Sterling continued to probe and on 35 minutes Lingard cut inside from the left and played a one-two with Sterling before smashing a beautiful curling shot from the edge of the box into the top corner and the game was over as a contest.
England were running Panama ragged with the Central Americans resorting to agricultural tactics. With half time approaching they conceded a central free kick with Trippier & Henderson worked an intricate move to play in Kane who centered for Sterling whose header was parried to Stones who claimed his second England goal for 4-0.
Yet more wrestling followed in the box as England attempted to take a corner and the referee pointed to the spot for Kane to hammer ho e his second in the same spot as the first for a 5-0 halftime lead.
The second half saw an inevitable slowdown as England started to conserve energy for the tougher tests that await. But Kane finished off his hat trick in bizarre fashion with Loftus-Cheek’s speculative effort ricocheting off him into the net for 6-0
After that Southgate rang the changes and the game petered out. There was time for Felipe Baloy to make bit of history by slamming home a fine drive after England got careless at a Panama free kick to give his nation their first ever World Cup goal, but it mattered little as England ran out 6-1 winners.
Yes it was only Panama but England’s recent history is littered with banana-skin moments against the lesser sides- remember needing that dodgy Peter Crouch goal to beat Trinidad & Tobago, or the 1-0 thrashing of mighty Kuwait or the goalless draws with Morocco & Algeria and that’s before we mention the I word! To reel off some statistics England scored as many goals in the first half as they managed in their last 2 World Cup campaigns combined, their 8 goals to date matches their total goal tally from Italia ’90 and Harry Kane has matched Alan Shearer’s golden boot tally from Euro ’96!
Bigger tests await but England have rid themselves of the Iceland syndrome and this tournament is reintroducing the hope and belief of the English public in their national team- you can’t do much better than that from 2 games!
Pickford 7- Little to do but 1 fine stop.
Walker 7- More commanding in defence than we saw against Tunisia but little to do.
Stones 9- First 2 goals for his country and a fine all round display, bigger defensive tests await (copy and paste to all defenders) but now an essential cog in the side.
Maguire 7- Has a tendency to start nervously and give the ball away in the early exchanges, but recovered well. Will he be retained against better opponents ahead of Cahill?
Trippier 9- Never tested defensively but but claimed another assist and played a gorgeous chipped pass to Lingard for the first penalty.
Henderson 8- Kept England ticking along from midfield and unlucky not to get his first England goal with a blazing second half strike
Loftus-Cheek 7- Showed off his tricks around the box and got a bizarre assist for the sixth. Unlikely to keep Alli out of the side.
Young 7- Made 1 crunching tackle early on and kept things going down the left.
Lingard 9- Man of the Match with his pace, drive and creativity and scored a wonderful goal.
Sterling 7- Better! Linked well with Lingard but still can’t score- at least got an assist for Stones’ second.
Kane 9- Claimed a hat-trick and leads the Golden Boot race and only the third Englishman to score a World Cup hat-trick.
Delph 7- One lovely piece of ball control, kept things moving and may well start against Belgium.
Vardy 7- Quiet but arrived when England were dropping down the gears.
Rose 6- A late run out- gives better balance down the left and a likely starter against Belgium.