A day filled with goals, drama and heartbreak, just what the World Cup is all about. Group H took shape ahead of the final match-day after England confirmed their passage to the Round of 16.
It turned into a sunny and simple day in Nizhny Novgorod with the game sewn up in a ruthless first half display.
John Stones guided a perfectly placed header home on eight minutes as Panama’s gate opened early. Jesse Lingard then was brought down for a penalty which didn’t need VAR, Harry Kane dispatched it emphatically.
Lingard got in on the act with the goal of the day, after a one-two with Raheem Sterling he curled a beauty in off the crossbar and celebrated equally as stylishly. Stones bagged a rare brace by heading in following Raheem Sterling’s effort being saved by Jaime Penedo.
Yet another penalty was awarded, the 15th of the tournament, Kane showed no nerves and moved level with Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the Golden Boot.
The second half wasn’t a spectacle with Panama more disciplined and England ringing changes. Kane claimed a hat-trick via a deflection from Reuben Loftus-Cheek’s shot, taking him to five goals and top scorer. He’s the third man to score a World Cup hat-trick, alongside illustrious names of Geoff Hurst and Gary Linekar.
Yet, there was a lapse of concentration as Felipe Baloy set off wild celebrations amongst Panama fans by diverting a free-kick past Jordan Pickford, a small dampen to a wonderful day for Gareth Southgate’s men.
Poland were sent home by Colombia as the former prime-time favourite, ‘The James Rodriguez Show’, returned in abundance, to inspire a 3-0 win in Kazan.
The South Americans were riled by a gutting defeat to Japan and Rodriguez, back in the starting side was a man on a mission.
A short corner led to the opener as Rodriguez clipped a delightful ball into Yari Mina who glanced a header past Wojciech Szczesny in the first half.
Then a ten-minute spell in the second half was the demise of Poland. Rodruiguez got in between midfield and defence and slipped Rademel Falcao through for his first World Cup goal.
If that was impressive, his curled centre to Juan Cuadrado was world class, the Juventus winger motored clear to put the nail in Poland’s coffin.
Senegal and Japan cancelled each-other out to keep their respective qualification hopes in tact after a 2-2 draw. Liverpool’s Sadio Mane was the fortunate recipient a spill from goal-keeper Kawashima to give the African nation the lead. Takashi Inui placed a right footed shot into the far corner to level ten minutes before the break.
The second half was again a close affair. Moussa Wague scored his first international goal after a lovely sweeping move down the left wing led by Sabaly and Mbaye Niang. But Keisuke Honda took advantage of an error from Khadim N’Diaye to ensure a share of the spoils.
Colombia move a point behind Japan on three points, Senegal lead on goal difference. A draw will take Senegal through, whilst Japan need to beat Poland to be sure of qualification. Colombia have the momentum and now England will certainly be wanting to avoid them in the Round of 16 if they qualify, they face Senegal next.