Tue, Jun 26, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Three Lions hit Panama for six

GOLDEN BOOT?Harry Kane became the third England player to score a hat-trick at a World Cup after Geoff Hurst in 1966 and Gary Lineker in 1986

Reuters, NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia

England’s Harry Kane, second left, scores a penalty against Panama in their FIFA World Cup Group G match in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

Harry Kane on Sunday struck a hat-trick as England’s young and free-flowing team banished the ghost of past failures with a record 6-1 thrashing of feeble Panama that eased them into the round-of-16.

England’s biggest-ever World Cup win, featuring two penalties by Kane then a fortuitous deflection off his heel, also guaranteed Belgium’s berth in the next round.

“It’s amazing, I’m extremely proud... We had fun out there,” said tournament top-scorer Kane, calling his third “one of the luckiest goals of my life.”

Ahead of their meeting on Thursday to decide who tops Group G, England and Belgium are level on points, goal-difference and goals scored.

Sunday’s game at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium eliminated the Central Americans with nine goals conceded. Tunisia were also knocked out.

Playing from the off with an ease and trickery that contrasted with the stressed-looking England of recent international tournaments, Gareth Southgate’s team romped to a remarkable 5-0 lead at halftime.

Defender John Stones headed England in front in the eighth minute from a corner, losing his marker to angle home, before captain Kane made it 2-0 in the 22nd minute with a penalty after Jesse Lingard was fouled in the penalty area by Fidel Escobar.

Lingard made it 3-0 in the 36th minute with a beautiful strike from just outside the area before Stones nodded in his second and England’s fourth from a cleverly worked free-kick routine.

Kane scored another penalty just before halftime.

The Tottenham Hotspur striker bagged his third after a 61st-minute shot by Ruben Loftus-Cheek hit his foot and bounced in.

Kane, substituted to an ovation from the nearly 2,500 England fans, was the third England player to score a hat-trick at a World Cup finals following Geoff Hurst in the 1966 final and Gary Lineker against Poland in 1986.

In two games, Kane has scored all five of his shots.

“We were ruthless in front of goal,” Southgate said.

Asked if his captain could hit the heights of a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, Southgate said he had started “brilliantly” and praised him for staying mentally strong as he waited to take penalties while the Panama players argued.

“We wouldn’t swap him for any other No. 9 in the tournament, such is his ability to take chances,” Southgate said.

Panama’s equal-sized army of red-shirted fans danced and cheered on the Canaleros to the end.

Substitute Felipe Baloy rewarded them with a consolation goal in the 78th minute, sliding home a free-kick that was Panama’s first goal in their debut World Cup finals, but in truth it was a humbling experience for Panama against a side known to get nervous and slip up against less illustrious rivals on the big stage.

“Panama is like a small young child in football... England is totally spectacular, a beautiful team,” said Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez, who went into the England dressing room at halftime to congratulate his counterpart Southgate.

“It could have been an even bigger score... What we did was to try to avoid a bigger catastrophe in the second half,” Gomez added.

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