England had no problem at all securing its place in the World Cup's knockout stage.
The Three Lions left it late vs. Tunisia to claim all three points in their opener, but they had no such difficulty against Panama, racing out to a 5-0 first-half lead and winning 6-1 on the strength of an unusual Harry Kane hat trick and goals by John Stones and Jesse Lingard. With Belgium having swept its first two matches, England ensured both clinched their last-16 spots with a match to spare with the win, and it sets up a final day showdown between the two European sides with both already having gone through and only playing for positioning. They're both level on points, goal differential and goals scored heading into the match.
England set the tone in the opening minute, with Ruben-Loftus Cheek, getting the start in the place of the injured Dele Alli, beating his defender on the end line before cutting back a cross for Lingard. The Manchester United star's first touch was too heavy, though, spoiling what looked to be a clear look at goal, and Lingard took an elbow to the face from Gabriel Gomez while trying to recover the ball, making matters worse.
Panama figured to have its best success on the counter, and that's how the Concacaf side broke forward on its first attack in the fifth minute. When it seemed like something was on, San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Anibal Godoy rushed his chance from 20 yards out, and he airmailed it way off target.
After the spoiled chances by each side, England converted on its next opportunity. The Three Lions won a corner kick in the eighth minute, and Stones powered home a header off Kieran Trippier's outswinging ball for his first international goal, making it 1-0.
Panama didn't wilt after the early concession, and it came close to notching the equalizer. On a push forward, Edgar Barcenas had room to set up and fire from long range with his left foot, and his curling chance bent agonizingly wide of the far post to keep it 1-0 England.
England doubled its lead in the 21st minute from the penalty spot. Lingard was taken down from behind as he went toward goal on the right channel, and Harry Kane stepped to the spot and delivered with a powerful conversion to make it 2-0.
It became 3-0 some 15 minutes later, when Lingard roofed a 20-yard blast. The Man United star worked a combination with Man City's Raheem Sterling, carving out space at the edge of the box before curling a right-footed rocket that tucked just under the crossbar by the upper right-hand corner, leaving goalkeeper Jaime Penedo with no chance at stopping it.
England extended its lead even more moments later. Off a free kick, Kane headed across goal, where Sterling headed on frame. Penedo made the initial save, but he parried it right in Stones's path, and the Man City defender headed home his second of the day to make it 4-0.
The rout continued just before halftime. Kane was pulled down in the box, winning a second penalty for England, and he powered home his second penalty of the day to make it 5-0.
The lead was extended to 6-0 just after the hour mark, with Kane getting his hat trick in unusual fashion. Loftus-Cheek's low blast from outside the area took a deflection off Kane's heel, and it beat Penedo to send Kane into first place in the Golden Boot standings, a goal ahead of Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Belgium's Romelu Lukaku. The goal also could be vital in determining which one of Belgium or England finish first in the group. As it stands, England is a goal clear of Belgium on differential, with its +7 edging Belgium's +6 ahead of their final-day showdown.
Panama still pushed for pride, and it nearly scored its first World Cup goal ever in the 76th minute off a corner kick. A glancing header put the ball at Roman Torres's foot right by the far post, but he put his chance wide of the mark, keeping it 6-0, and keeping England atop the group.
That is, until Felipe Baloy scored moments later. The veteran, 37-year-old center back got in behind on a set piece, notching the nation's first World Cup goal and giving its supporters something to celebrate in making it 6-1. The goal brought England level with Belgium on points, goal differential and goals scored as the two vie for first in the group.
Here were the lineups for both teams:
Here are the rosters for both sides:
Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Ashley Young (Manchester United), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jones (Manchester United)
Midfielders: Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), Dele Alli (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
Manager: Gareth Southgate
Goalkeepers: Jose Calderon (Chorrillo), Jaime Penedo (Dinamo Bucarest), Alex Rodriguez (San Francisco)
Defenders: Felipe Baloy (Municipal), Harold Cummings (San Jose Earthquakes), Erick Davis (Dunajska Streda), Fidel Escobar (New York Red Bulls), Adolfo Machado (Houston Dynamo), Michael Amir Murillo (New York Red Bulls), Luis Ovalle (Olimpia), Roman Torres (Seattle Sounders)
Midfielders: Edgar Barcenas (Tapachula), Armando Cooper (Universidad de Chile), Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes), Gabriel Gomez (Atletico Bucaramanga), Valentin Pimentel (Plaza Amador), Alberto Quintero (Universitaro), Jose Luis Rodriguez (Gent)
Forwards: Abdiel Arroyo (Alajuelense), Ismael Diaz (Deportivo Fabril), Blas Perez (Municipal), Luis Tejada (Sport Boys), Gabriel Torres (Huachipato)
Manager: Hernan Dario Gomez