England is through to the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup 2018 after trouncing Panama. The result ensures Belgium are also through, while Panama and Tunisia are out.
If there were concerns over England’s ability to cope with the rising heat in Nizhny Novgorod – temperatures in the city touched 32 degrees in the Celsius on Sunday – after spending their past few days in the cooler conditions of Repino, it took only a few minutes for Harry Kane & Co. to dispel them as they romped to a thumping 6-1 win over Panama here today to book their place in the Round of 16.
In the first minute itself, Jesse Lingard went down to the ground clutching his face after being at the receiving end of Gabriel Gomez’s elbow. It looked like England would be in for a long evening against a defensively disciplined Panama side. Seven minutes later, England earned a corner and Kieran Trippier’s teasing delivery into the box was headed in by the unmarked John Stones. Panama’s discipline at the back almost immediately went out of the window.
In the 20th minute, Jesse Lingard was brought down inside the box by Fidel Escobar as he sped towards the goal. Harry Kane dispatched the ensuing penalty to double his side’s lead. England continued to tighten the screw. With Dele Alli on the bench, Ruben Loftus-Cheek had started the game alongside Jordan Henderson in midfield and the duo helped control the tempo with Lingard often dropping deep to maintain England’s superiority in midfield.
Lingard would continue to be a live wire through the game. In the 36th minute, he cut in from the left flank, did a one-two with Raheem Sterling and unleashed an unstoppable curler from the edge of the box. 3-0 to England!
Four minutes later, they scored again. A long ball from the middle was met with a firm header by Kane. His effort reached Sterling, whose own header was saved by Panama custodian Jaime Penedo. However, the ball fell to the onrushing Stones who headed in from close range.
With two minutes to go for half-time, Panama suffered further humiliation. Anibal Godoy was spotted grappling with Kane during an England corner and referee Grisha Ghead immediately pointed to the spot. The England skipper made no mistake from the spot kick as England headed into the break with a 5-0 lead.
Panama players took their time to leave the pitch for half-time as they reached the center circle and exchanged a few words with each other – perhaps a quick post-mortem of the half – before making their way to the dressing room.
In the second half, they came out better organized at the back and managed to thwart England’s attack till the hour mark. Then England and Kane encountered a slice of luck as a harmless-looking shot from Loftus-Cheek hit Kane and went into the goal. Gareth Southgate immediately replaced Kane with Jamie Vardy. England slowed down the tempo and Panama surged ahead in search of some consolation.
Right back Michael Murillo had only keeper Jordan Pickford to beat in the 66th minute but his chip was met with a touch by the latter and Stones was in position to clear the ball from in front of the goal. Ten minutes later, Panama skipper Roman Torres missed from close range as his shot from a corner delivery went a couple of feet wide.
Two minutes later, Panama finally got their goal. A free-kick from substitute Ricardo Avila found fellow substitute Felipe Baloy inside the box. The latter had to stretch but made no mistake as he sent the majority of the crowd at the stadium into delirium. The goal was met with the loudest roar of the afternoon and even head coach Hernan Dario Gomez couldn’t resist a smile from the sidelines.
Not much happened on the field in the remaining minutes and England fans ended their time at the ground with non-stop rendition of ‘England are in Russia’. Southgate’s men will now take on a star-studded Belgium side in Kaliningrad on Thursday night as they aim to seal the top spot in the group.