England clinched both their own spot and Belgium’s spot in the Round of 16 by handing Panama a crushing defeat. As a result, both Panama and Tunisia have been eliminated. This was an easy victory for England, as Panama struggled throughout the match. England set many records today. They won 6-2, making this the first time ever that the Three Lions score more than four goals in a World Cup match. Harry Kane’s hat trick made him the first English player ever to score four goals in a single group stage and the third English player ever to bag a hat trick in the World Cup. He is now in the lead in the Golden Boot race with five goals. Even though Panama looked uncharacteristically bad and unnecessarily physical, Felipe Baloy was able to score the small country’s first ever World Cup goal. It was nice to see the players and fans celebrating as if Panama had just won the World Cup. One of the goals England score was off a very creative and effective set piece after a free kick. The goal was beautiful but many were confused as to why England would reveal this set piece in a match against a very weak team when they were already leading by a significant margin. The argument is they should have waited until a more important match against a better team in the knockout rounds to execute this play. What was most impressive about England, other than Harry Kane, is the fact that they do not appear afraid to mix things up. Defender Harry Maguire was all over the field and put great pressure on Tunisia in England’s first match, and so Panama defended him heavily. However, instead of relying Maguire, England merely turned to John Stones, and that turned out to be a great plan as he went on to score his first two international goals. This creativity will allow England to go deep in the tournament.
Senegal and Japan went back and forth in the second match of the day. Senegal were able to get on the scoreboard early because of a mistake. Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima punched away a shot coming straight at him instead of catching it, allowing it to bounce off Senegal and Liverpool star Sadio Mane’s knee and into the net. Japan started the match playing apprehensively, but that did not last long as they were able to score a beautiful goal before the first half ended. Moussa Wague put Senegal back in the lead, becoming only the second youngest African player to score in a World Cup match. However, this lead would not last long. Immediately after Wague scored, Japanese veteran legend Keisuke Honda entered the match as a substitute, and that is when Senegal should have become worried. Within just a few minutes, he took advantage of a mistake committed by the Senegalese defense to tie the score. Japan also executed the most beautiful offside trap of the tournament, thus far. During a Senegalese free kick, the entire Japanese back line moved, resulting in six Senegalese players ending up offside. The match ended in a draw, but Senegal and Japan are very much alive and can both still qualify for the Round of 16.
Colombia put on quite the show in the last match of the day. James Rodriguez was James Rodriguez, making two beautiful assists. Viewers expected nothing less from him. Ramadel Falcao scored his first career World Cup goal, and left the match to a curtain call. While the sun shone bright on Colombia today, it set on Poland’s future in the tournament. With their loss today, Poland have officially been eliminated. They are now the first European country to be eliminated, and what makes this even more shocking is that Poland are a top ten team. Poland’s play has been characterized by a lack of rhythm and bad passing. Frustration on the face of Poland’s star Robert Lewandowski, who holds the record for most goals by a player in a single UEFA qualifying campaign that he set in 2018, was evident throughout this match. It seemed that he had no one to pass to and he tried to carry the entire team on his back. Additionally, Colombia were able to control the match by focusing on Poland’s weak left side. Colombia looked very strong today, and this was a great comeback win after the disappointment they experienced against Japan. They are strong candidates to make it to the Round of 16.