In a World Cup Group G where goal difference could be a tie-breaker for catching the first spot, England closed their gap with Belgium today by smashing 6-1 a Panamanian side that objectively proved inadequate for a world stage. Harry Kane scored three of those goals, suddenly jumping to the top of the scorers list. A double by John Stones, and a gem by Jesse Lingard rounded up the score for the Three Lions, whose real consistency will however need to be tested by tougher opponents.
Panama is probably the weakest among the 32 teams that made it to Russia, a Cinderella story with no happy ending, and today showed two sides of what it means to be an underdog at the World Cup. The Central Americans’ performance was frankly embarrassing during the first half, with the men in red more focused on beating up their opponents, than on creating some game.
Players like Michael Murillo and Gabriel Gomez were simply detrimental, if not dangerous. The number 6 midfielder started by knocking down Lingard with a brutal elbow, and even pretended he received a foul. Murillo was a public enemy on his own soil, causing one of the two naïve penalties that Kane mercilessly converted. The Brits went up 5-0 at half time, without even giving the impression of having struggled that much to get there.
But as football historians started to browse through the World Cup almanac searching for the most brutal one-sided beatings in the history of the tournament – Yugoslavia-Zaire 9-0 in 1974, Hungary-El Salvador 10-1 in 1982 – Los Canaleros showed the good side of their football, pushing hard to reach an equally-historical first World Cup goal for their side.
They found it, after Kane had made another one for England, with substitute defender Felipe Baloy – unleashing a heart-warming celebration on the stands of the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, with a human ocean of red and blue jerseys rejoicing just like they had won the World Cup. And it was indeed a painful goal for the Brits, as it brought back their goal difference to the level of Belgium, with the exact same number of goals scored.
Should England tie with the Red Devils in their last Group Stage match, it will be a fair play coefficient, based on the number of yellow and red cards received, to determine which team advances to the Round of 16 from the 1st place – and that would be a first time in the World Cup history.
But for the time being, the British can pride themselves with having the current tournament top striker, that Harry Kane who climbed to the top of the rank without even realizing exactly how – especially when a shot by Ruben Loftus-Cheek hit his toe, and assumed an awkward trajectory that turned into his side’s 6th joy. His previous two goals were gentle homages from the Panamanian defenders, that he unwrapped from the penalty spot.
This doesn’t mean that England didn’t show some pretty good football today, as they made their way through the opponents’ feeble defensive lines, and accumulated the goals they needed. The gem of the day was the third goal, scored by Jesse Lingard with a beautiful lob shot in the 36th minute. And when a center back like John Stones also manages to make it to the scorecards twice, that can only be good news for coach Gareth Southgate. Together with the fact that Belgian top strikers Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard may both miss the Group G final showdown due to injuries…
June 24, 2018 – World Cup Group Stage Pool G
SCORERS: 8′ Stones (E), 22′ Kane (E, pen.), 36′ Lingard (E), 40′ Stones (E), 44′ Kane (E, pen.), 62′ Kane (E), 78′ Baloy (P)
|ENGLAND (3-1-4-2): Pickford, Stones, Maguire, Walker, Loftus-Cheek, Lingard (62′ Delph), Henderson, Young, Trippier (69′ Rose), Sterling, Kane (62′ Vardy) (Butland, Pope, Alexander-Arnold, Cahill, Jones, Alli, Dier, Rashford, Welbeck) Coach: Southgate
|PANAMA (4-1-4-1): Penedo, Escobar, Davis, Murillo, Torres, L.Rodriguez, Gomez (68′ Baloy), Barcenas (68′ Arroyo), Godoy (62′ Avila), Cooper, Perez (Machado, Cummings, Ovalle, Pimentel, Diaz, Tejada, Torres, Calderon, Rodriguez) Coach: Gomez|
REFEREE: Grisha (Egypt)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Loftus-Cheek (E), Escobar, Cooper, Murillo (P); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 4′