Debutantes Panama joined Tunisia to head home from Group G of the FIFA World Cup 2018, even before their final group game against one another. After their 0-3 loss against favourites Belgium, the Central Americans needed to up their ante against the apparent inventors of the Beautiful Game. But, they were demolished by the British, led by skipper Harry Kane.
The CONCACAF team had the worst start they could have dreamed off, when they conceded off a John Stones header as early as the 8th minute of the game. England then ran riot over a clueless Panama to seal their berth to the round of 16 in spectacular fashion. After a hard earned 2-1 victory over the Tunisians in their opening match, there were no hiccups for the 3 Lions as they put 6 passed debutantes Panama.
Even after conceding early to Stones, the Panamanians did not give up hope and they kept on pushing for a goal after conceding early. They almost found the goal when Edgar Barcenas nearly curled in a left footed effort in the 16th minute of the game. But 4 minutes later, Fidel Escobar’s soft foul on Jesse Lingard caused the referee to point to the spot. Harry Kane stepped up to take it and calmly blasted it into the top left corner.
15 minutes later, Lingard produced the best goal of the game. After a quick one-two with Raheem Sterling, the England number 7 curled a perfect right footer into the top right corner. Panama started to increase more players in attack that left huge spaces at the back and England just took advantage of that and scored again. A short free kick from Trippier was hurled into the box by Henderson; Kane nodded it down for Sterling whose shot was initially saved by Jaime Penedo, but Stones followed up to score his second of the match with a close range header.
4 minutes later Escobar was again at fault for pulling down Harry Kane in the box. The England captain stepped up and again put the ball in the same place to score his second of the match. Kane was substituted right at the stroke of the hour, just after he completed his hat-trick with a deflected finish from a Loftus Cheek shot.
At one point it was looking like the final score could very well be in double digits. But the 2-times CONCACAF Gold Cup runners refused to give up and started playing the ball with more confidence. They got their reward when 21-year Ricardo Avila’s free kick was brilliantly tucked in by 37-year old Felipe Baloy. The historical first ever world cup goal for the Central American nation, known more for their geographical location, sent their fans in absolute jubilation. Even the neutrals were moved by the sheer ecstasy as Baloy shed tears of joy after the landmark goal.
Kane’s hattrick helped England tie on points, goal difference and goal scored with Belgium before their final group game on Thursday. A draw with better disciplinary performance on the day will see England top their group. Panama on the other hand will go into the final game, looking to salvage some pride against the Tunisians on the same date.
England vs Panama Lineups:
England: Jordan Pickford; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire; Kieran Trippier (Danny Rose ’70), Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard (Fabian Delph ’63), Ashley Young; Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane (Jamie Vardy ’63).
Panama: Jaime Penedo; Michael Murillo, Fidel Escobar, Roman Torres, Erick Davis; Gabriel Gomez (Felipe Baloy ’69); Edgardo Barcenas (Abdiel Arroyo ’69), Anibal Godoy (Ricardo Avila ’62), Armando Cooper, Jose Luis Rodriguez; Blas Perez.
England vs Panama Match Facts:
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England vs Panama Highlights:
Photo by Ben Sutherland