England’s football team banished the ghost of past national failures with a record 6-1 thrashing of Panama at the FIFA World Cup that included a hat-trick by Harry Kane and eased them into the last 16.
England’s biggest-ever World Cup win, which included two penalties by Kane then a deflection off his heel, also guaranteed Belgium’s berth in the next round. England and Belgium have identical records ahead of their meeting next week to decide who tops the group.
It left the shell-shocked Central Americans out of their debut tournament with nine goals conceded in Group G. Tunisia were also eliminated.
Playing from the off with an ease and trickery that contrasted with the stressed-looking England flops of recent international tournaments, Gareth Southgate’s team romped into a remarkable 5-0 lead at half-time.
Defender Jon Stones headed England in front in the eighth minute from a corner, losing his marker to angle home a header, before captain Kane made it 2-0 in the 22nd minute with a penalty after Jesse Lingard was pushed over in the box 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 after a cleverly worked free-kick routine. Kane scored another penalty just before halftime.
The Tottenham striker bagged his third after a 61st minute shot by Ruben Loftus-Cheek hit his foot and bounced over Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
Current World Cup top scorer on five goals after two games, Kane was then substituted for Jaime Vardy up front, to a standing ovation from the nearly 2,500 England fans at Nizhny Novgorod. He has scored all five of his shots on target.
Kane became the third England player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup game following Geoff Hurst in the 1966 final and Gary Lineker against Poland in the 1986 tournament.
Substitute Felipe Baloy rewarded them with snared a consolation goal in the 78th minute, sliding home a free kick that was Panama’s first goal in their debut World Cup.
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.
For England fans, the pain of losing to Iceland in the 2016 European Championships and a first-round exit without a win at the 2014 World Cup, was finally slipping away.
Colombia’s World Cup campaign roared back into life with a 3-0 win over Poland in Group H on a sweltering evening at the Kazan Arena which sent the Poles tumbling out of the tournament.
Defender Yerry Mina opened the scoring in the 40th minute with captain Radamel Falcao and winger Juan Cuadrado sealing a deserved victory with two goals in five minutes as the desperate Poles chased the game in the last quarter.
Midfielder James Rodriguez, winner of the Golden Boot at the last World Cup, returned to the starting lineup after injury and played a part in two of the goals as Colombia got back on track after their opening loss to Japan.
Japanese soccer fans did not get the win they wanted but took heart from their team’s grit as the Samurai Blue came from behind twice to draw 2-2 with Senegal, keeping their hopes of an improbable place in the World Cup last 16 on track.
Japan looked on the verge of defeat in their second Group H match until veteran Keisuke Honda fired home the equaliser 12 minutes from time.