On Sunday, Gareth Southgate’s side were presented with an opportunity to take some pot shots at fish in a canal as Panama, who started brightly enough, wilted under a sustained first-half assault that reaped five England goals, which marked only the fifth time in the history of the tournament that a team had rattled in that number in the opening 45 minutes of a game.
Marking proved to be Panama’s Achilles heel: four of England’s goals came from set-pieces with two dispatched from 12 yards by Harry Kane as Panama’s defenders attempted to wrestle their opponents to the turf every time an opposition player stood over a stationary ball.
John Stones got the rout underway with a bullet header from a corner before Kane, who moved to the top of the Golden Boot standing with a hat-trick, hammered in the first of his two penalties on 21 minutes. Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling combined to produce England’s third, a glorious strike from the edge of the area by the Manchester United forward after a one-two with his club rival giving Panama keeper Jaime Penedo no chance.
England then turned on the style with a training ground routine from an innocuous looking free-kick, Henderson working it to Kane, who nodded back across to Sterling to head home. Penedo prevented the Manchester City forward from getting on the score sheet but Stones arrived unmarked at the back post to finish the job for his second of the game.