England produced a superb performance against minnows Panama yesterday and they well and truly thrashed them 6-1. England scored a remarkable five goals with no reply in the first half and they included two penalties from captain fantastic Kane and a brace from central defender Stones. However, the goal of the first half fell to Lingard who scored a brilliant goal of the tournament contender. The Manchester United star finished off a sweeping move that started from the back with a perfect right foot curler that finished just inside the right hand post and it left the keeper with no chance of saving it.
Not surprisingly the second half was a more languid and close affair with Panama dropping back, defending more and playing on the counter attack and England taking their foot off the gas due to their commanding lead. Kane was fortunate to get his hat-trick after Loftus-Cheek’s goal bound shot clipped off his heel and the ball went over the stranded Panama keeper, but it won’t matter to the England striker who now leads the Golden Boot winners table on five goals. Panama had not scored in the tournament up to this point and it was fitting veteran 37 year old sub Baloy, who is retiring from International football after the tournament, came on and scored his countries first ever World Cup goal.
England are now level on points and goal difference with Belgium and their crunch Group G clash on Thursday at 7pm will determine who wins the group and who is runner up. The decision could go down to the names being drawn from a hat if they are level on points, goal difference and the fair play records of both team are the same.
The other two matches last night were from Group H between Japan and Senegal and Poland and Columbia. Senegal really should be top of the group now as they lead twice against Japan, but poor defending allowed Japan back in to the game and both teams had to settle for a draw, which left them joint top of the group on four points and the same goal difference. At the time of writing Columbia were leading Poland 1-0 at half-time and if Columbia go on to win they will be in third place a point behind Senegal and Japan.
The final round of group matches start today and there are four games in total, two from Group A and two from Group B with both group matches starting at the same time. The Group A matches are between group leaders Russia and second place Uruguay in Samara at 3pm on ITV and this game will decide the group winner and runner-up as Saudi Arabia and Egypt are both out. The other game is a dead rubber between Saudi Arabia and Egypt at 3pm on ITV 4.
There’s a lot more at stake in Group B with three teams still in with a chance of reaching the last sixteen. Today’s matches are between third place Iran and joint group leaders Portugal at 7pm on BBC Four and Morocco and joint group leaders Spain at 7pm on BBC One. A win or draw would see Spain and Portugal through to the last sixteen, however, if Iran were to beat Portugal and Spain won, Iran would qualify for the last sixteen as runners-up, and if Spain lost, as group winners.
Its safe to say Russia won’t get an easy a ride against Uruguay as they did against Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but the manner of their attacking threat must be respected, even against a defence as stingy as Uruguay’s. I have not been that impressed with Uruguay’s midfield and I can see the Russian midfield over running them, especially in attack, and creating more scoring chances that should lead to an historic win that will mean the squad become the first ever Russian World Cup squad to win their group and all their group matches.
Group B qualification is a shoot-out between Iran, Spain and Portugal and judging by the performances of each team so far, I see another low scoring win for Portugal as Iran limited Spain to a 1-0 win and I see Spain cruising to their second win and clean sheet against Morocco, who have nothing to play for apart from pride. There’s one game from tomorrow that I must include as well, which is Nigeria (76/13) to beat Argentina. Nigeria beat them 4-2 last November in a friendly and after such a convincing and impressive win last time out against Iceland there’s no reason why they can’t repeat their friendly win on this occasion against what looks to be an average and out of form Argentina team.
Russia to beat Uruguay (56/25)
Portugal Win & Under 3.5 Match Goals vs. Iran
Spain Win to Nil vs. Morocco
Nigeria to beat Argentina (76/13)