MOSCOW, June 24, 2018 – Captain Harry Kane became only the third England player to score a hat-trick at the World Cup finals as the Three Lions easily secured their place in the second round in Russia with a game to spare by dispatching newcomers Panama 6-1 in Nizhny Novgorod.
The Tottenham Hotspur centre-forward became the five-goal leading scorer at the finals as he matched the treble feats of Geoff Hurst in the 1966 final and Gary Lineker against Poland in 1986.
This was England’s biggest ever win in a major tournament as they ran up as many goals in this one match as in their previous seven World Cup ties combined (six).
Eliminated Panama have conceded nine goals in their first two outings and the last time anyone conceded more in their first-ever two fixtures was in 1974, with Zaire shipping 11 and Haiti conceding 10.
Victory lifted England level with Belgium on goals and goal difference at the top of Group G and the two teams contest top spot on Thursday. Both are certain of progress to the second round but if they draw in Kaliningrad then they will continue to have identical records and will have to be separated on yellow cards. England have two, Belgium have three.
Panama and Tunisia have been eliminated with a game remaining.
Manager Gareth Southgate’s men did not play particularly well but they played well enough against awkward, physical opponents and thus began a World Cup with two successive wins for the first time since 2006. England’s victory was their sixth in a row and extended their unbeaten run to 12 matches.
Kane said: “I am so proud of the boys. We have been working on set pieces and working on the way we play and it is all coming together. Fantastic to be through and to do it this way is brilliant.
“We are enjoying it and we have to keep it going, not get ahead of ourselves. There is a long way to go, a lot of hard work but we just have to stick to our game plan. You have to believe.”
A Kieran Trippier corner provided England’s opening goal for John Stones and Kane scored his first from a penalty after Jesse Lingard had been brought down. Lingard scored a fine solo goal and Stones his own second goal after a free kick.
Captain Kane scored England’s fifth from another spot kick after he was fouled and he completed his hat-trick by deflecting home a shot from Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Panama’s late consolation goal came from 37-year-old Felipe Baloy.
England manager Gareth Southgate was less impressed than his captain.
Southgate said: “I really didn’t like the performance. I didn’t like the start, and I didn’t like the goal at the end, but I guess the bits in the middle were pretty good.
“As for the team for Thurday, we want to keep momentum. There’s an opportunity for players who need a match but also we want to keep winning. It’s a nice decision to have.”
The winners and runners-up of Group G – England and Belgium in whichever order – will play the respective runners-up and winners from Group H in the round of 16.
The identities of the latter qualifiers have yet to be resolved after Japan drew 2-2 with Senegal in Ekaterinburg and Colombia thrashed Poland 3-0 with goals from Yerry Mina, Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado in Kazan.
Those goals, two created superbly by James Rodriguez, spelled Poland’s World Cup elimination. By contrast Japan, Senegal and Colombia still have everything to play for on the concluding group matchday next Thursday.