As qualification goes, this was never going to be the game to stop us making it to the second round. Panama, the weakest of England’s group opponents were no match for their illustrious opponents, but you can’t imagine many had England down to score 6 and send a real marker to the rest of the tournament.
Although the score-line makes it look like a breeze, Gareth Southgate was far from pleased and rightly so. Despite an assured start of ‘keep ball’ from the Three Lions, there was a sloppiness that appeared from nowhere from players who should be able to pick a pass and make it stick.
England did however get their game together and another early goal, this time from centre-half John Stones meant Panama had to commit more than they would have liked so early and that opened things up nicely for more goals. After not getting the rub of the VAR green with regards to penalties against Tunisia, this time Harry Kane made the most of it and scored twice from twelve yards. Not to be outdone, Stones also netted a second for himself in the first half, but the plaudits for goals have to be reserved for Jesse Lingard, a absolute peach of a strike for England’s third, a more polished performance from the young Manchester Utd player after missing a host of chances in game one.
5-0 up at half time doesn’t make a team talk any easier than 1 or 2-0 down. England’s second half couldn’t come close to the ruthlessness of the first 45 minutes, even allowing Panama to grab a goal of their own and Kane completing a first World Cup hat-trick, a Ruben Loftus-Cheek shot deflecting in off the striker’s heel to take the lead for the Golden Boot with 5 goals in 2 games.
Southgate is well aware there are much tougher tests to come, starting with the final group game on Thursday against Belgium. How both sides will approach this game is unsure, qualification is assured for each side and in Belgium’s case there are a number of injury concerns. England on the other hand might resist the chance to give tournament minutes to fringe players and keep the momentum going into next week’s second round game.
Whatever happens, the nation has been excited by the results and performances and while some of the other nations are having to dig deep already just to get a win, you feel the longer it goes on the more this squad wants it, I’m just glad I’m not Dutch or Italian and missing out what could still turn out to be one of the most open World Cup’s in recent time.