2018-06-24 12:34:06
England Advances in World Cup after Rout of Panama

12:34, June 24 277 0

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia — It was Saturday afternoon on the Volga River when Panama manager Hernan Dario Gomez offered a scary thought — the next day’s match against England might prove even more lopsided than his team’s 3-0 loss to Belgium in its first game.

A day later, Panama made its manager look like a seer. Behind three goals from captain Harry Kane, England obliterated Panama 6-1 on a steamy afternoon here, qualifying for the knockout round with a win that may have said more about how poor an opponent the Three Lions faced rather than how formidable they might actually be as this tournament rolls on.

And yet, there is not a lot more that anyone could have asked of England through its first two matches, a 2-1 win over Tunisia when the team was sharp everywhere except inside three yards and Sunday’s defenestration of Los Canaleros that will fill this team with confidence as it confronts the World Cup crucible.

“I know how many people were watching at home on a Sunday afternoon,” England coach Gareth Southgate said when it was over. “Lovely that we could give them so many goals to enjoy.”

Maybe, the most frightening thing for England fans, who have supposedly learned to lower their expectations after so many disappointments, is actually true. Maybe England is really, really good.

England completed 92 percent of its passes and had 57 percent of the possession, scoring six goals on 12 shots. Maybe England is capable of playing deep in this tournament, and this time making more penalty kicks than Germany or Portugal or whatever other historical nemesis or upstart it faces.

Gomez, who spent most of the day standing in the coach’s box with his arms folded, tried to shed a sliver of positive light on the afternoon. “The second half was 1-1,” he said.

England’s fans brought drums and a horn section that included a tuba and enough songs and chants to last all afternoon. Good thing, because the destruction began early, with defender John Stones getting so free for a header on a corner kick in the 8th minute that he looked more stunned than joyous when the ball sailed into the back of the net. Stones also headed in England’s fourth goal in the 40th minute, knocking in the rebound of a Jaime Penedo save.

Kane netted one of the softer hat tricks in World Cup history. He banged in two first-half penalty kicks and unwittingly got his heel in the way of Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s shot from 20 yards in the 62nd minute. The ball skittered past a helpless Jaime Penedo in Panama’s net.

“He said ‘sorry mate,’ ” Loftus-Cheek said Kane told him after he had possibly stolen his chance at goal. “That’s the luck of it.”

Kane took a seat on the bench after that goal. Midfielder Jessie Lingard worked a nifty give-and-go with Raheem Sterling and rocketed a shot from the left side of the 18-yard line for England’s other score.

Kane is now the leading scorer in the tournament with five goals, though he said there is a long way to go with plenty of other stars in the field, and that is hardly what he cares about most.

“The most important thing is that we’re winning games,” the Tottenham striker said. “If my goals are helping us win games then that’s a good thing.”

So, what to make of England? The English have qualified for the knockout round from their group with Belgium, who they will play Thursday in Kaliningrad. The match will determine only whether the team faces Poland, Senegal, Colombia or Japan in the round of 16. None of those teams will cause anyone any sleepless nights at the team’s base camp in Repino, just north of St. Petersburg.

Southgate described his team as “ruthless” for a 35-minute stretch in the first half.

“Just before halftime, the game was done,” he said.

Skeptics might toss darts at the team. For example, only two of England’s six goals came from the run of play Sunday — as if that sort of thing matters — since set pieces play such a large role in big tournaments. Or, the defense has not exactly looked impenetrable, letting Tunisia draw even in the first match and allowing two easy chances early against Panama. In the 78th minute, 37-year-old Felipe Baloy, a Panama reserve, slipped into the penalty area to to get his foot on the other end of a free kick from 40 yards to give Panama its first-ever goal at a World Cup.

But no team’s defense looks like a bulwark at this World Cup. That is the nature of the international game, since defense depends so much on teamwork and timing, and national teams only spend about 30 days together in any given year.

No one needed to look at a statistics sheet in either match to surmise that both Panama and Tunisia are just not very good. Yet, it is not England’s fault that its draw included a gutsy but undermanned Tunisia team and the first team ever to qualify for the World Cup from Panama.

After England found the goal just twice in 17 chances in its first match, Southgate said he was thrilled with the win, even though England needed Kane’s stoppage-time goal to prevail. He said he enjoyed that game more than the massacre of Panama, because he enjoyed the tension. The former England international has been around long enough to know that most of the battle in soccer is creating quality chances, and if a team’s players are as world class as England’s are, eventually those attempts will start to hit the back the net.

Now Southgate has decisions to make. Should he rest his starters and give reserves who have not played a match in several weeks a chance to play, or should he keep his foot on the gas and try to beat Belgium and win the group? It’s a luxurious choice for any manager to have after two World Cup matches, especially one coaching a team where the tension and the fear of failure is often at a fever-pitch from the opening kick.

“We must enjoy this win,” Southgate said. “We must enjoy that we’ve qualified because it is not easy, no matter the opponent.”

Here’s how England defeated Panama:

We have four minutes of added time, for some reason.

Panama hasn’t scored a goal in the last five minutes, which means they now need to quicken the pace to one goal every minute to draw England. Can they do it? Stay tuned to find out!

The comeback is on! Panama scores their first World Cup goal ever!

Ricardo Ávila plays a free kick in behind the English defense, and Felipe Baloy meets it with a nice sliding shot.

Panama now just needs to score a goal every two minutes to win a point in this game.

Román Torres pops free at the back post on a corner, but he slides his shot wide.

Right wing back Kieran Trippier comes out for Danny Rose.

Also, somewhere in there after Harry Kane’s hat trick, he and Jesse Lindgard came out for Jamie Vardy and Fabian Delph.

Felipe Baloy, Ricardo Ávila and Abdiel Arroyo are in for Panama. Both teams have used all of their substitutions.

England rudely denies Panama their best chance yet at a goal.

Jordan Pickford denied Michael Murillo one-on-one, but couldn’t he have just led the Panamanian score as a confidence booster?

Oh no, poor Panama. Harry Kane makes it 6-0. Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s shot from outside the box clipped off the heel of Kane, who was just trying to get out of the way, and wrong-foots Jaime Penedo, who had no chance.

The referee blows his whistle for some shirt pulling in the Panama box, and everybody is relieved to see it’s called on England and isn’t a third penalty.

England are still trying for a sixth, and it seems likely they’ll get it. Raheem Sterling has already gotten in behind, only to be denied by an alert goalkeeper, and they’re bypassing Panama’s lines with ease.

Apparently they haven’t called the match, and we’re going to play the second half. Is England going to try scoring, or will they sit back and be content to manage their five goal lead?

England is winning 5-0. They are comprehensively better than Panama, who have gifted the Three Lions two penalties, left John Stones (John Stones!) completely unmarked on both a corner kick and free kick to score two goals, and have been sloppy with the few chances they did have.

Another penalty for Harry Kane, another wallop by the goalkeeper into the top left of the goal. Kane now has four goals, joining Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the Golden Boot.

If this were a Little League match the mercy rule would’ve already been invoked.

Matthew Futterman: Amazingly, Hernan Gomez said yesterday that this match might be uglier than the 3-0 loss to Belgium. And yes it is.

It’s worth remembering now, once again, that Panama finished third in Concacaf qualifying. Team USA finished fifth. Those matches included a 1-1 draw in Panama City. Stew on that for a bit before you get too haughty if you are an American soccer fan.

Oh my god, it’s getting even worse for Panama. Aníbal Godoy bear-hugged Harry Kane on a corner kick. Kane was manhandled in the same way against Tunisia, but it was never called. This time it is.

Matthew Futterman: The marking was much better on that set piece for Panama, except that someone forgot to tell them that bear-hugging is not allowed in the World Cup either.

Suddenly John Stones has scored two goals in the World Cup. After a nice little free kick move, Harry Kane heads the ball across the goal to Raheem Sterling. His attempt is well-saved by Jaime Penedo, but Stones puts in the rebound with his head.

Jesse Lindgard’s 25-yard curler ticks off the bottom of the cross bar and in. It came after a nice 1-2 with Raheem Sterling, and at 3-0 the rout is officially on at this point.

Matthew Futterman: In my daughter’s league when you get six goals ahead you can’t shoot anymore. What is the mercy rule at the World Cup? For what it’s worth, Panama-Tunisia may be a really good, meaningless match.

Panama finally controls the ball for a number of passes and gets a great ball in behind the defense, but once again the attack ends without a threatening shot on goal.

After a short run-up, Harry Kane thumps the ball into the top left corner of the goal.

Panama was already struggling in this match. Just about the last thing they needed was to give away a penalty.

Matthew Futterman: What you missed while the cameras followed Kane’s celebration — Panama grabbed the ball and tried the old schoolyard trick of restarting while the other team is off the field. Referee Ghead Grisha had to blow his whistle and explain that is not allowed at the World Cup.

Jesse Lindgard controlled the ball over the top, and was bundled over by Fidel Escobar. Referee Ghead Grisha didn’t hesitate in awarding it.

Édgar Bárcenas’s curving shot from outside the box sends Jordan Pickford into a full dive, but it’s outside the post. Panama keeps getting chances though ...

Matthew Futterman: Panama has now had two good chances and missed the goal badly on both. How many more will they get this afternoon? My guess is not very many. The only way these small teams win is if they are completely clinical on their chances.

England is clearly the better team, but they’ve had a few bad giveaways in their own half. If Panama was a sharper side, it would be a big problem.

Armando Cooper is booked for stepping on Jesse Lindgard’s heel.

For John Stones, who was completely unmarked on a header, and powers it into the bottom left corner from the penalty spot.

It’s actually incredible how unmarked Stones was. There was no intricate movement or feint, he just ran past his marker to the ball.

Matthew Futterman: I’m not really sure what Panama was thinking there. How do you not mark the really tall defender in the middle of the penalty area on a corner kick?

Panama wastes a great chance. Aníbal Godoy was slipped in on goal, but his shot is blasted over.

Things have stopped here for a few minutes after Jesse Lindgard was elbowed in the face going for a header.

We are underway from Nizhny! England is in white, Panama in red.

Matthew Futterman: It’s seriously hot here in Nizhny. On paper, the heat may be the only thing that can stand in the way of England in this one. They’ve got much better, much younger players, amd overwhelming numbers in the stands, too. No offense to Panama, which did amazing work just to get here. As my friend and former colleague and Englishman Jon Clegg likes to say, the Brits can sometimes turn a funny shade of pink when they get hot and frustrated. That’s what Panama has to be shooting for.