Matthew Ashton – AMA / Getty Images
England started the 11th round of the FIFA World Cup 2018 with a 6-1 win over Panama in the knockout stages. Harry Kane scored a hat-trick in the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium as the Three Lions made a decisive encounter with Belgium on Thursday to determine who wins the group.
The winner will compete against the runner-up in Group E in the round of 16. It could be Colombia after the South American nation condemned Poland to an early exit from the competition.
Radamel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado and Yerry Mina scored Los Cafeteros's goals to make it 3-0 in Kazan. Although the victory gives Colombia three points, Japan and Senegal, who drew 2-2, are still in the lead. The result is good enough to keep both nations in the lead.
Group G (Goal difference and points)
1st England: +6, 6
2. Belgium: +6, 6
3. Tunisia: -4, 0
4. Panama: -8, 0
1. Japan: +1, 4
2nd Senegal: +1, 4
3. Colombia: +2, 3
4. Poland: -4, 0
Kane stars dominate as England
Just as they played against Tunisia, England had a fast pace early on when they met Panama. But unlike Tunisia, the Three Lions could take most of their chances.
It helped Kane in a typically ruthless mood. Tottenham Hotspur's striker scored twice after the penalty shoot-out, giving them a 5-0 lead before the break.
Kane, too, was helped by his luck, especially as Ruben Loftus-Cheek's shot deflected off his back foot in the 62nd minute to reach England's sixth.
The goal may have come from an unfortunate, happy ending, but the build-up showed England could make friends with the elegant, possession-based play of coach Gareth Southgate:
25 – There were 25 unbroken passes played by England before their 6th goal today; the longest series for a World Cup goal since 1966 and another pass as Esteban Cambiassos goal for Argentina against Serbia in 2006 (24). Happy.
#Eng #EngPan #WorldCup https://t.co/pBnHr1EEKr
While Kane had found the net, that was no surprise, two goals for John Stones were certainly rated as a shock. In fairness, the Manchester City center-back took on both well, with strong header up close.
The goal of the match was undoubtedly Jesse Lingard's great shot on goal nine minutes before the break. It came after a wise connection with Raheem Sterling, whose intelligent run from the ball caused Panama problems from the start.
It was still time for Felipe Baloy to write history by scoring Panama's first goal in a World Cup.
Apart from the late blip, England showed the burgeoning liquid and the edge in the attack areas that would make her a threat in the last eighth. A striker like Kane makes sure that the increasingly attractive approaching game ends more often.
The Southgate team must avoid the defeat by Belgium to win the group because things are so close that a rare factor could be used to separate the two:
Dale Johnson @DaleJohnsonESPN
England and Belgium have identical records. When they draw with each other, fair play is important.
England with 2 yellows to Belgium 3.
A draw with England, which gets a yellow more than Belgium = draw for 1./2.
A team might want maps to end up …
Wherever they end, the Three Lions have enough experience to secure a place in the quarter-finals.
Senegal and Japan still in the mix
While Kane and Co. are already through, Senegal and Japan have to wait for four goals in the Ekaterinburg Arena. Senegal's goal was thanks to goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima for his first goal after the nervous Japanese fouled Liverpool striker Sadio Mane's ball with a cannon shot:
Tiago Estêvão @TiagoEstv
You can not tell me that the tournament has a worse goalkeeper than Kawashima. Which is interesting because they have the young and highly rated Kosuke Nakamura on the bench. It's time, Nishino. It's time.
In their honor, the Blue Samurai fought back and eventually equalized in the 34th minute by the impressive Takashi Inui. The winger who recently agreed meeting Eibar's Betis showed some nice touches, noble, close control and a dangerous shot from the edge of the region.
Inui should have put Japan ahead when he broke off from the left in the 64th minute just to see his first try off the rack. It would be a costly miss when Senegal took the lead seven minutes later.
The goal came from Moussa Wague and made some World Cup history:
19 – Moussa Wagué ?? is the youngest African scorer in World Cup history ? (19 years & 8 months). Jewel. #JAPSEN #WorldCup https://t.co/KCsCK4OQl
However, Senegal did not hold onto the lead as Japan continued to compete in fast one- and two-touch combinations. Despite all the attractive football, Senegal goalkeeper Khadim N & Diaye still had to tick the Blue Samurai and leave substitute Keisuke Honda with the easiest finishes possible.
Heroics from the bank become common for Honda:
Game of the day @BBCMOTD
? June 19
Keisuke Honda supports the 3-0 winning goal of # JPN against #COL.
? June 24th
Keisuke Honda gets #SEN only 5 minutes after start #NPN. https://t.co/kvY7HSygaj
Like Wague, the 32-year-old has reached a milestone by finding the net:
4 – Keisuke Honda is now the best Asian player in World Cup history, scoring four times in nine games. Symbol. #JPNSEN #JPN #WorldCup https://t.co/tT4NYxu04K
Honda's goal means that both teams need at least one point to qualify for the next phase when they play their last group matches on Thursday.
Poland 0-3 Colombia
Colombia was considered too weak during the first game for lack of creativity, while James Rodriguez was not fit enough to start. Rodriguez, the top scorer of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, played the pass to start his country's Polish defeat.
Rodriguez hit a good cross for Mina five minutes before the break. The former had been played by Juan Fernando Quintero, who was consistently excellent.
Quintero was in the center of attention when Colombia doubled their lead after 70 minutes, leaving Falcao with a great pass to start and finish.
The 32-year-old striker has never had trouble finding the net at club level, but has not had the best times at World Cups:
Game of the day @BBCMOTD
Four years and two ACL injuries later Radamel Falcao came to # WorldCup and got his goal.
Never give up on ? #COL https://t.co/Tsohy6UB38
As for Quintero, Porto Loanee is a talent, but he has already left his mark on the tournament:
Andrew Gaffney @GaffneyVLC
Quintero is the classic tournament player who looks like he's worth 50 million, but then gets lost for a season or two. If he is good, he is very good.
Quintero has a similar impact on Rodriguez enjoyed four years ago, but no doubt the latter is still the captain of his country. It was his angled and weighty pass that sent Cuadrado away to achieve the third.
Depending on how they play, when their main artists are fit and involved, Los Cafeteros can reach the last 16 and beyond.
First, Colombia has to beat Senegal to be sure. Prior to this, attention will be directed to the attempts of Spain and Portugal to move on from Group B.