In a wholly unexpected turn of events, England thumped the minnows of Panama to win their second group game running at this World Cup, beating all kinds of English records in the process.
England struggle against minnows, you know the routine, we’ve seen it so many times before. Can’t break them down, get frustrated, don’t get the refereeing decisions they should then scrape a lucky winner.
Well England didn’t initially get the decisions they should, was beginning to think the ref was going to be a bit of a clown after the elbow Lingard got, followed up by various other kickings he was on the end of. Had wondered if they’d mistaken him for Dele, or they just practised to kick Dele in the match and didn’t want all that work to go to waste.
He got his revenge.
Not before Trippier started another thwarted quest for the man of the match award. His pinpoint corner, just 8 minutes in, was right on the head of the onrushing Stones for the defender to open his England account. A well worked set piece that saw the main targets scatter leaving a nice gap in the middle of the box for Stones to run into from deep.
Well when I say scatter, they moved as far as they could carrying a few defenders. Panama were straight in with the wrestling moves that Tunisia got away with in the previous game. It wasn’t quite as bad as the double team put on Mitrovic by the Swiss but the Panamanians had seen Tunisia weren’t punished so thought they’d also get away with it.
Before they were though it looked like England were going to repeat the previous game themselves as they dropped off after a good start and had they’re usual shaky defensive moment which a half decent team will punish.
Lingard’s first piece of revenge came when Trippier’s excellent ball into the box found the United player for him to be taken down for a penalty. The Panama players moaned and moaned and tried their best to put Harry Kane off but he stood their calmly, and slammed home an emphatic spot kick. No saving that one.
Twenty minutes in, England two up and all Panama had was fouls.
Just over half an hour in and Lingard had his total revenge. The best bit of open play by England saw what they should do more of. Pass and move. One touch and triangles. Lingard to Sterling back to Lingard and beauty of a curler to put England three up.
It was Sterling’s only real contribution to the afternoon, well apart from butchering yet another easy chance that thankfully didn’t cost the side. It will one day, as will his persistence in being offside. That chance came from another well worked set piece. Trippier’s clip, Henderson’s chip, Kane’s header back across goal for Sterling to head it straight at the keeper and Stones to nod in the save. Stones, now with twice the number of World Cup goals as Wayne Rooney.
Four goals, in a half, England…
But no, it didn’t end like that as on the stroke of half-time, Kane amongst others was wrestled to the ground as Trippier put in another corner. This time the ref finally pointed to the spot. Cue Panamanian moaning and trying to put Harry off again. He, again, kept calm, ball tucked under his arm before placing it on the spot and banging it in exactly as he’d done previously.
Five goals, in one half, from England. They don’t do this, not at tournaments especially. They’ve never score more than three in a game at a World Cup.
The second half was never going to top that, it was never going to get close, never mind even matching it. It’s always the case when, team just takes the second half easy and doesn’t end up getting the 8 to 10 goals they should. When you factor in whatever it is that Southgate does to these players during the break then a repeat was never going to happen.
I the end the second half was a one all draw. England going six up just after the hour, just as Kane was about to be taken off he got his hat-trick with a deflection from Loftus-Cheek’s shot – about his only contribution. After that under the leadership of Henderson they conceded Panama’s first World Cup goal from a free-kick.
Southgate says he wasn’t happy with some of the game. Well, for one he’s put Sterling’s “fragile” ego ahead of the team. There was no justification for his starting spot and nothing he did during the game should mean he keeps it. His link up play with the rest of the team is non-existent and he just gives the ball away, added to the things mentioned earlier about butchering chances and being offside. Loftus-Cheek did very little, as did Ashley Young. The defence were again shaky at times against very limited opposition. There’s still far too much flaky playing it around at the back. They’re not up to it. And far too much playing it backwards.
Nobody plays Harry in with a decent ball. He’s got fives goals in a game and an hour. He’s now the second joint top England scorer at World Cups. Since 1978 only once has more than 6 goals been needed to be the competition’s top scorer. And yet he hasn’t had a real sniff from open play. He could have had a couple more penalties but where’s the through balls into the box? Nowhere, certainly not coming from his “strike partner”. This is the man that’ll get you far in the World Cup, play to him.
Kane’s goals again denied Trippier of the man of the match award. It didn’t look good when he went off and was being strapped up on the bench. He can be rested against Belgium now England are through to the next round, hopefully he’ll be fine for the first knockout game.
But there is a word of warning for those getting excited about England before that match with Belgium… it is “Live and exclusive on ITV…”