If you thought belief was building back in England after Harry Kane’s last-gasp winner against Tunisia, you’d seen nothing.
Day Eleven of Russia 2018 saw England hit Panama for six to set up a final day shootout with Belgium for top spot in Group G, despite the fact the minnows were having a party themselves by full-time for very different reasons.
It was also the highest scoring day of the tournament to-date, so sit back, relax, and enjoy reliving all the action right here with our Russia Review.
Kane hat-trick sees Three Lions roar into last 16
England sealed their passage through to the last 16 after demolishing Panama 6-1 – their biggest World Cup win in history.
The result also means Gareth Southgate’s side have recorded the nation’s best ever start to a World Cup, with England only winning their opening two games in 1982 and 2006 previously.
Harry Kane hit a hat-trick to become Russia 2018’s top scorer, whilst John Stones also scored a brace to claim his first two international goals.
There were fears that England may struggle to break down a stubborn and aggressive Panama backline, but it took them only eight minutes to take the lead as they came racing out of the blocks.
Both goals in the win over Tunisia win came through corners, and it was a similar story here – Stones was left unmarked on the penalty spot and powered a header in from Kieran Trippier’s delivery to fire England ahead.
Jesse Lingard was then fouled by defender Fidel Escobar when bearing down on goal and was awarded a penalty, which captain Kane then stepped up to hammer into the left corner, giving goalkeeper Jaime Penedo no chance.
England were cruising, and it was three with less than ten minutes to go until the break – Having missed a couple of big chances in the Tunisia win, Lingard played a neat one-two with Raheem Sterling before curling a beauty past Penedo from outside the area to claim his first World Cup goal.
That sparked a crazy ten minute spell which saw three England goals – the team’s fourth came when a well-worked free-kick saw Jordan Henderson play a ball to the back-post and Kane nod across goal. It fell for Sterling but his header was saved from point-blank range before Stones headed his second into the roof of the net much to the Manchester City defender’s delight.
England were left furious against Tunisia when captain Kane was denied what appeared to be two stone-wall penalties, but there was no such frustration today as he won his side’s second in first-half stoppage time when Anibal Godoy hauled him down from a corner.
Kane stepped up, and with almost a carbon-copy of his first, completed a five-star first half for England, who went into the break 5-0 ahead.
The Tottenham striker then became only the third England player in history to score a World Cup hat-trick, repeating the feat also done by Sir Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker, but he had a large slice of luck in doing so, as he deflected Ruben Loftus Cheek’s long-range effort in off his heel, spinning it away from the helpless goalkeeper.
That rounded off England’s goal scoring for the afternoon as Kane was substituted immediately after, but the action wasn’t done there as Panama got their moment in the sun at a roasting hot Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
With just 12 minutes to go, Ricardo Avila whipped a free-kick in and on a plate for the unmarked substitute Felipe Baloy, who volleyed in Panama’s first ever World Cup goal at the age of 37-years-old.
It was a fitting way for the tournament debutants to end what was an extremely difficult game, but for England, they need just a draw against Belgium to top the group on fair play grounds, provided they don’t receive more bookings against their opponents in the final group game in Kaliningrad on Thursday.
Record-breaking Honda salvages Japanese point
Japan twice came from behind against Senegal to earn a vital point in their quest to qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup.
The draw sees both sides go into their final matches on four points, meaning a point for each will see them progress to the last 16.
After a positive start, Senegal found the opener after just 11 minutes.
A cross to the back post was headed away by the Japanese defence but only as far as Youssouf Sabaly – his curling effort was saved by goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima but he spilled the ball which rebounded off the knee of Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and into the net.
Japan levelled however just over ten minutes before the break. Inter’s Yuto Nagatomo brought down a long diagonal ball with a great first touch that took two Senegalese defenders out of the game, before laying it off for Takashi Inui who cut inside on his right foot and bent one into the far corner.
The Japanese then had a couple of opportunities through Yuya Osako and then Inui again who was denied his second by the crossbar, but it was Senegal who scored the game’s third goal to retake the lead.
A nice build-up which involved the impressive Mane saw Sabaly drill a ball into the box. M’Baye Niang failed to connect properly with a backheel from six yards out but in doing so turned the ball to Moussa Wague who hammered a first-time shot into the top corner, making him the youngest African goalscorer at a World Cup.
That goal came with 20 minutes remaining and Senegal may have thought they’d done enough, but Japan responded again soon after.
Goalkeeper Khadim N’Diaye was slow in attempting to claim an Osako cross, it drifted to the left side of the area for Inui who played a first time ball along the floor and Keisuke Honda was there to finish off his fourth World Cup goal from six yards out.
That strike means the 32-year-old becomes the first Japanese player to score at three different World Cups, and his tally of four is also the highest of any Asian player in history.
Neither side could find a winner afterwards, meaning both teams now need a point in their respective final group games, with Japan currently sitting top thanks to their fair play record.
Colombian campaign resurrected with classy Poland win
Colombia reacted to their opening day loss in emphatic fashion with a highly convincing victory over a very poor Poland side at the Kazan Arena, which sent the Poles tumbling out of the World Cup.
Barcelona defender Yerry Mina opened the scoring just before half time, with captain Radamel Falcao and winger Juan Cuadrado sealing a more than deserved victory with two quick goals late on as Poland chased the game.
Poland, who avoided playing a friendly for twelve months so they could be seeded at the World Cup, crash out at the earliest opportunity possible.
Against Japan, the Colombians were dealt a massive blow when Carlos Sanchez was shown a red card in the opening minutes. The Japanese won, albeit Colombia gave a mighty effort.
James Rodriguez returned to the starting eleven, following an injury that kept the 2014 golden boot winner out of the clash with Japan.
The match started with a fast tempo, greeted by a barrage of noise from the tens of thousands of Colombian fans, sporting their stylish yellow shirt.
Colombia opted for a very South American style of play – high pressing off the ball and quick passing on it. The Polish were limited to launching long balls towards Robert Lewandowski. The Bayern star was extremely quiet.
The first goal came late in the second half, where James Rodriguez crept into the box, before chipping a delightful cross to Yerry Mina, which the towering defender headed home.
Poland tried to respond, but Colombia held firm at the back and Arsenal ‘keeper David Ospina was on top form.
The second half goals came later in the half in quick succession. Firstly, Quintero slid in Falcao who span his marker before neatly stroking the ball into the net.
That goal comes as the first World Cup strike for ‘El Tigre’, who was injured in 2014, then stricken with injuries for a couple of years after.
Poland threw men forward and were punished, as James Rodgriguez rasped a pass across the field to Cuadrado, who passed the ball home for Colombia’s third.
Jose Pekerman’s men came up with the goods in Kazan, with an eye catching performance reminiscent of 2014.
Los Cafeteros now play Senegal in Samara on Thursday, in which is a crucial game in Group H.
As for Poland, Adam Nawalka’s side will be boarding an early plane home, after two sub-par performances.
Player of the Day – John Stones (England)
In a day where any of the England players could be picked for ‘Player of the Day’, we are opting for John Stones of Manchester City.
The Barnsley-born defender typifies everything of the modern centre-back, with unique passing techniques and brilliant tactical knowledge.
Despite this, his performance against Panama was that of a classic defender – a menace in both boxes with his head, in a style that is reminiscent of Terry ‘Bandage’ Butcher.
Gareth Southgate and Steve Holland will take the credit for the prowess of attacking free kicks that England possess, as the Three Lions have scored six of their eight goals from set pieces so far. Corners is an area that England are evidently very good at and John Stones is exactly the man you want in the box to attack them – and defend them for that matter.
Not just in the box though, the Guardiola pupil showcased his passing abilities again against Panama, as he started many attacks with his Beckenbauer-esque ‘breaking the lines’ passes.
It was Stones who, on Monday against Tunisia, ignored the cries of Jordan Henderson for him to pass backwards to Maguire, instead playing a vital daisy cutter pass forward that ultimately led to the corner that Kane scored from.
Stones raw talents, coupled with his footballing brain taught by Guardiola, are crucial to England and will continue to do so.
John Stones was the best of a very good bunch for England on Sunday and is our worthy ‘Player of the Day.’