Kane scores hat-trick as England beat Panama 6-1

Gareth Southgate England

Gareth Southgate England

In other matches, Colombia's all-time leading scorer Radamel Falcao notched his first World Cup goal in their 3-0 win over Poland.

It was a dramatic first half, with the Panamanians showing some rough behaviour - but that couldn't stop striker Harry Kane from taking two successful penalties. England seeing out the game by keeping the ball and Panama seeing the game out by chasing it.

As well as the last 16, England is also on course for its biggest win at the World Cup.

It's easy to forget, considering today's elation, that prior to Stones' opening goal England were sloppy and the defence looked shaky.

So the fact they are working so well is a good sign for England in a wider sense at this World Cup.

The front players identified Panama's defensive weakness, and frequently made intelligent runs in behind their backline, either to pick up the ball in advanced areas themselves, or open up space behind for a midfielder to make a marauding run from deep.

England's forward Harry Kane who scored a hat-trick holds the match ball at the end of the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup Group G football match between England and Panama at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod on June 24, 2018.

If they do end up atop the group, then it is hard to discount their chances in the knockout stage as momentum plays a big part in a competition like the World Cup.

Stones found himself on the scoresheet again after latching onto a defected ball and heading it home, scoring his second of the evening and Englands fourth.

But at the very least, England fans will be able to cheer on a team that plays a brand of football they recognise and enjoy. "For such a young captain Harry Kane is so vocal and I think everyone respects him massively in the team", he said.

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In Russia, England has been trying to cast aside the negativity of the past while remolding the image of the team on and off the field.

Kane was dragged to the deck from a corner as they employed grappling techniques UFC fighters would be proud of, but Hernan Dario Gomez's side forgot to mark Stones and the Manchester City centre-back headed home his first global goal.

As it stands, England top their table but have to face Belgium - who won 5-2 against Tunisia - in their final group game on Thursday.

Five first half goals condemned Panama to the joint-heaviest defeat of the World Cup so far as they sank without trace in Nizhny Novgorod, although Felipe Baloy did make history by scoring their first ever World Cup goal. We just have to stick together and keep to our game plan.

It is all so different from his last worldwide competition when, at the European Championship in 2016, he arrived as the main goal hope of a supposedly hungry young team but from the first match looked tired and off the pace.

With four points from their opening two games, both teams remain in contention but will need points from their final group matches to make the round of 16.

England's players have clearly been made aware of the potential of set-piece strength at this World Cup, particularly in the context of the video assistant referee (VAR) and the potential for physical defending to be punished.

'I don't see why we would be negative enough to just start going, "Oh, I hope we get to the quarter-finals".

"We wanted a 0-0 in the first half, it would have been OK to have a 1-1", the Panama coach added.

In a match far removed from the tense Tunisian encounter less than a week ago what have we learnt about Gareth Southgate's young lions ahead of the clash against Roberto Martinez's Belgium?

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