YOU KNOW KANE WILL BURY CHANCES, SAYS SOUTHGATE
ENGLAND manager Gareth Southgate says he would not swap Harry Kane for any other goalscorer at the World Cup after his captain’s hat-trick helped secure a record-breaking win and progress to the knockout phase.
After digging deep to see off Tunisia at the climax to Monday’s Group G opener, the Three Lions secured a win as impressive as it was comprehensive in putting shambolic Panama to the sword in sweltering Nizhny Novgorod.
England’s 6-1 victory was their biggest at a major tournament and sealed progress to the last 16 with a game to spare as John Stones’s brace and a fine Jesse Lingard strike complemented a treble by Kane.
Just the third Englishman to score a hat-trick at the World Cup, it moved Kane onto five goals and the top of the Golden Boot standings.
Asked about Kane’s current level in a question mentioning Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, England manager Southgate said: “Well, clearly the stage to do that is this one. He’s started brilliantly.
“You can dismiss penalties as being easy, but the length of time he had to wait before taking that (first one) and the number of distractions, to then keep focused, start again and refocus tells you a bit about the mental toughness that he’s got.
“Look, he’s there, he’s up at the top. We wouldn’t swap him for anyone in the tournament in terms of number nines.
“You know that when he gets opportunities he’s going to bury them. You sit there very confident in his ability to take chances.
“But as important in that is the way he sacrifices himself for the team in the way he presses, holds the ball up, contributes to the overall game.
“He’s not just a player that stands up front and waits for chances and that’s important within the ethic of the team we’re trying to create.”
Kane went off soon after wrapping up his hat-trick, England’s only goal of a second half that was never likely to get near the five struck before the break.
“It’s strange because I enjoyed the win against Tunisia more because of the tension in it and the fact that you get over the line when you’re really under pressure,” Southgate said. “It was very, very special.
“Just before half-time the game was done [yesterday], so it was a very, very strange feeling watching the second half, just trying to encourage the players to keep professional in the way that they played and be a top team by being ruthless.
“I was pleased the captain got his hat-trick because it meant he had the hump less when I brought him off because I know the importance for him of scoring goals.
“Very strange because I think we probably at times played better the other night than we have done [against Panama], but here we were really ruthless in front of goal.
“A different type of challenge and I know how many people have been watching at home on a Sunday afternoon, so it was lovely that we could give them goals to celebrate.
“I think they can see what we’re trying to do and the way we’re trying to play and that the players are enjoying their football.
“You don’t get many opportuni- ties to play in a game like that for England.”
Kane says he will resist any temptation to rest against Belgium on Thursday as he continues to chase the World Cup golden boot.
Southgate may be tempted to let his prize asset take a breather in Kaliningrad, particularly as second place in the group may offer a simpler knockout route than first, but Kane is keeping his eyes on the prize.
“That’s his decision, I guess, but obviously I want to play,” said the 24-year-old, who has twice finished as the Premier League’s leading marksman.
“I want to continue the form I’m in, but whatever decision the gaffer makes we’ll get behind. There is a bigger picture.
“The most important thing is always winning games, and if my goals help my team win then that’s the perfect situation. There’s a long way to go and a lot of good players just behind me [on the list]. Hopefully I can just continue and take it into Thursday’s game.”
England currently top the standings on the slenderest of margins. With the same number of points as Belgium and an identical number of goals scored and conceded, a solitary yellow card splits the teams on disciplinary grounds.
Kane, though, is not interested in second place and would rather keep the winning feeling intact regardless of the path it leaves.
“It’s important we finish top,” he said.
He’s not just a player that stands up front and waits for chances.
Manager Gareth Southgate, on England captain Harry Kane’s work ethic.
ENGLAND’S explosive first half “frightened” Panama and left head coach Hernan Dario Gomez fearing one of the biggest defeats in World Cup history.
Nizhny Novgorod bore witness to a special afternoon for the Three Lions as Harry Kane’s hattrick, John Stones’s brace and a superb effort from Jesse Lingard secured this win and progress to the last-16.
Gareth Southgate’s men secured England’s biggest World Cup finals win and had scored five by half-time, leaving Panama boss Gomez fearing just how bad things could get as England comfortably dealt with their roughhouse tactics.
“Well, I think that the difference of goals could have been more – we could have actually conceded more goals,” he said.
“As to our football, we’ve tried to play against England, but there’s a huge difference between our two teams.
“To concede five goals in the first half, two penalties, two setpieces, where England were very, very effective, well, what we did was try to avoid a bigger catastrophe.
“We managed to keep the ball in the second half a little bit more and we kept playing in an orderly fashion because had we not done that it wouldn’t have been six goals but far more.”
Gomez had no qualms about the two penalties England were awarded in the first half of a match, with the Los Canaleros boss saying his side “are virgins, we have been born before the due date”.
“We wanted a 0-0 in the first half, it would have been OK to have a 1-1,” the Panama coach added.
“But we were feeling rather frightened at half-time because of the huge difference between us and England, and also Belgium.
“We have learned a lot at this World Cup so far. We’ve drawn a lot of conclusions, but Panama are a small, young child in football, other teams don’t really decipher our style of play.
“There was three or four goalscoring opportunities where we could have scored, but we didn’t finish properly, and England came to our box seven times and scored six.”
Substitute Felipe Baloy made history by become the first Panamanian player to score at a World Cup at the end of a second half that begun with Gomez making a beeline for the England dugout to speak to England manager Southgate.
“I congratulated him,” the Panama boss said with a smile. “I told him that I really like his team, England, and I said, ‘Look, we’re going to play cool and calm now’.
“I tried during half-time to tell my players to be more composed, to play football in an orderly fashion, so I congratulated Southgate.
“I’ve had to play against two spectacular opponents, Belgium and England, but this is absolutely fantastic because that is how you learn, draw conclusions and can tell where your team is.
“I think England are totally spectacular – a beautiful team.”
High praise indeed. Things finally appear to be looking up for an England side who were humiliated by Iceland at Euro 2016 and eliminated with a group game to spare at the 2014 World Cup.
The Three Lions’ win was as comprehensive as it was impressive, setting up an intriguing shoot-out with Belgium for top spot on Thursday.
After displaying their character to seal a last-gasp win against Tunisia, England kept a cool head to deal with Panama’s rough- house tactics in sweltering Nizhny Novgorod, emphatically adding the clinical edge Southgate had called for after Monday’s game.
Stones headed home his first two international goals in an opening period that saw Kane smash home two spot-kicks and Lingard curl home from the edge of the penalty area.
England made light work of a Panama side focused on unsettling rather than outplaying them, with captain Kane becoming his country’s third player to score a World Cup finals hat-trick when the ball went in off him early in the second half.
Baloy made history late on, but it did not take the edge off a victory to cherish – just the third time the Three Lions had won their opening two World Cup games.
Panama got what they deserved for a pitiful display against an England side showing just one change, despite assistant Steve Holland’s training notes suggesting otherwise.
Gabriel Gomez’s elbow on Lingard within two minutes gave Southgate’s side an indication of the brutish challenge facing them.
Panama’s tactics cost them in the eighth minute. Kane was dragged to the deck from a corner as they employed grappling techniques of which UFC fighters would be proud, but Hernan Dario Gomez’s side forgot to mark Stones and the Manchester City centre-back headed home his first international goal.
Next Kieran Trippier, again impressing at right-back, clipped a lovely ball to Lingard who was bundled to the deck by Fidel Escobar and Kane’s penalty strike into the top corner could hardly have been sweeter.
Lingard added a sumptuous third, collecting a loose ball in the 36th minute and playing a smart one-two with Raheem Sterling before bending home an outstanding effort.
A smart set-piece routine saw Jordan Henderson clip a first-time ball over to Kane, whose header across goal was met by Sterling. When his initial effort was stopped, Stones was on hand to net.
With half-time approaching England became the fifth team in World Cup history to score five or more in the opening period. Kane was dragged to the deck by Godoy and took delight in firing home the resulting spot-kick.
In the second half Ruben Loftus-Cheek, in for the injured Dele Alli, had a shot that went in off Kane’s heel, with the VAR giving the green light for that hat-trick after checking for offside.
But Panama made history, when Baloy slid in to direct home a free-kick.
ONE INTO TWO: England captain Harry Kane scores from the penalty spot to double his side’s lead during their win over Panama in Nizhny Novgorod. He went on to score a hat-trick as England won 6-1.
COMING OUT ON TOP: Panama’s Michael Amir Murillo rises above England’s Jordan Pickford and John Stones. England lost this battle but were overwhelming overall winners with Stones, inset second right, scoring twice in the 6-1 win.