Harry Kane grabbed the Golden Boot scoring lead while becoming the third England player to record a hat trick at the World Cup as the Three Lions emphatically sealed their spot in the round of 16 with a 6-1 thrashing of Panama in Group H play Sunday in Nizhny Novogorod.
Kane converted two penalties while defender John Stones added two headers in a first half in which England ran riot and rang up five goals en route to its largest World Cup win. Jesse Lingard also scored in the first half before Kane completed his day with an inadvertent goal in the 62nd minute, his fifth of this tournament that moved him ahead of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku for the World Cup lead.
The victory put both England and Belgium through to the knockout round, and the European sides will face off Thursday in Kaliningrad for the top spot in Group G as they enter the contest level on goal difference and goals scored.
Felipe Baloy made history for the Canaleros by grabbing a consolation marker in the 78th minute for their first World Cup goal. Panama, along with Tunisia, was eliminated from reaching the knockout round, and the sides will wrap up group play in Saransk on Thursday.
The match actually started ominously for England as Lingard was flattened by an elbow from Gabriel Gomez going for a 50-50 ball, and Panama created a nervous moment for England’s back three as Edgar Barcenos played a ball laterally to Anibal Godoy, who sliced a shot well wide in the fifth minute.
After that, it was all Three Lions all the time. The onslaught started with an outswinging corner from Kieran Trippier on the right that an unmarked Stones met with a downward header from the penalty spot into the left corner in the eighth minute. It continued the spectacular quality of England’s set pieces as all three goals it had scored to this point had come off corner kicks.
Bacenas was proving to be a menace as he constantly tested England’s back line, with his best effort a curling left-footed shot from 20 yards that sailed just wide of the left post..
Lingard drew Kane’s first penalty attempt after being clattered into from behind by Escobar. Kane made no mistake, ripping a right-footed shot into the upper left corner to double England’s advantage on 22 minutes.
Lingard then scored England’s first goal in the run of play at this tournament with a sublime finish into the upper right corner from 20 yards in the 36th minute. He worked a 1-2 across the to of the penalty area with Raheem Sterling, cutting in from left to right and latching onto the return pass in style before beating Jaime Penedo with a right-footed shot.
Four minutes later, Stones completed his brace with a header from point-blank range. Trippier played a short free kick to Jordan Henderson, who clipped the ball into the penalty area picking out Kane. The talisman nodded across to Sterling, whose unmarked header was stopped well by Penedo, but the rebound came right to Stones, and the Man City defender needed only to tap it home for a 4-0 lead.
Referee Ghead Grisha pointed to the spot for a second time in the 43rd minute after seeing Godoy with a bearhug on Kane in the penalty area during jostling for a corner kick. Kane replicated his first attempt perfectly, complete with venomous pace, into the upper left corner to push the margin to five.
The Tottenham Hotspur striker knew nothing about his goal that capped England’s scoring in the 62nd minute and made him the first England player to tally three times in a World Cup match since Gary Lineker bagged a hat trick versus Poland in 1986. Ruben Loftus-Cheek cut inside to his left and fired a shot from 25 yards that clipped Kane’s heel and looped into the net as a wrong-footed Penedo could only watch in helpless agony.
Geoff Hurst has England’s most famous World Cup hat trick, netting three against West Germany in the 1966 final on home soil to help the Three Lions win their lone title.
Henderson nearly grabbed a seventh in the 73rd minute as his volley fizzed wide of the left post. Baloy struck five minutes later, hitting a sliding volley with his right foot on a free kick from Ricardo Avila that beat Jordan Pickford inside the right post.
England put seven of its 12 shots on target while Panama finished with eight shots total. The Canaleros will have to make at least two changes to their starting lineup for Thursday’s contest as both Michael Murillo and Andre Cooper both picked up their second yellow cards of the tournament and must sit out versus Tunisia.