Harry Kane struck a hat-trick as England thrashed Panama 6-1 on Sunday to ease into the World Cup last 16 alongside group rivals Belgium.
Kane now has five goals in Russia, leapfrogging Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku in the race for the Golden Boot as the Central Americans were sent packing along with Tunisia.
Belgium and England — who meet in Kaliningrad on Thursday to battle it out for top spot in Group G — both have six points after two games and are level on goal difference and goals scored.
England recorded their biggest-ever victory at a World Cup despite the sapping heat in Nizhny Novogrod, playing with youthful zest and imagination against their disappointing opponents.
Two penalties from Kane and two goals from John Stones, plus an impressive strike from Jesse Lingard, gave England an unassailable 5-0 lead at half-time.
Kane completed his hat-trick in the 62nd minute and coach Gareth Southgate had the luxury of substituting his captain with tougher challenges ahead.
Felipe Baloy, 37, scored the first-ever goal for Panama at a World Cup to narrow the gap but it could not mask the vast gulf in quality between the two sides.
“I’m very proud. Not many players get to score a hat-trick in the World Cup,” said Kane, who is only the third England player to score three goals in a World Cup match after Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker.
“We have to enjoy this. It’s not every day we get to go through after two games.”
Southgate said he was pleased with his side’s ruthlessness.
“It was a different type of win to the other day (against Tunisia),” he said. “Then we had to go right to the wire and show qualities that are going to be really important to our resilience and sticking to our principles of play.”
Belgium hammered Tunisia 5-2 on Saturday, with two goals from both Lukaku and Eden Hazard.
– ‘Death threat’ player –
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman dedicated his side’s crucial 3-0 win over Poland on Sunday to midfielder Carlos Sanchez after reports the midfielder received death threats for his red card in the earlier defeat to Japan.
Sanchez has had “a very hard time” dealing with the fallout from his third-minute sending-off in Colombia’s opening game, Pekerman said.
“This victory is dedicated to Carlos Sanchez, because he’s had a very hard time in the past days. I want, and we want, to share it with him,” he said.
Pekerman added: “We received certain information, but I can’t confirm anything. The player was deeply affected by this matter.
“It went beyond football. It’s a game that we play with a lot of hard work and dedication, but these things should not be taken lightly.
“Whether it’s confirmed or not… this is extremely painful.”
It evoked memories of the chilling murder of Colombia player Andres Escobar, who was killed after his own goal led to defeat to the United States in the 1994 World Cup and Colombia’s elimination from the tournament.
Colombia’s win in Kazan with goals from Radamel Falcao, Yerry Mina and Juan Cuadrado sent Poland crashing out of the tournament.
The quarter-finalists four years ago in Brazil can guarantee a place in the knockout phase by beating Senegal on Thursday.
Senegal blew their chance of victory against when Japan who twice came from behind to force a 2-2 draw in an entertaining game in Yekaterinburg.
Sadio Mane scored first after woeful goalkeeping from Eiji Kawashima, but Takashi Inui equalised later in the first half. In the second period Moussa Wague re-established Senegal’s lead but substitute Keisuke Honda pegged them back again.
Honda, 32, is the top-scoring Asian player in World Cup history after his fourth goal in nine appearances.
Mane’s coach Aliou Cisse warned the Liverpool striker to raise his performance if Senegal are to progress.
Diego Maradona said he was “furious” with Argentina’s shambolic 3-0 defeat by Croatia and has asked to give the players a pep talk before their crucial final game against Nigeria.
“I’m furious and very upset inside, because anyone who wore that shirt can’t see it being trampled like that by a Croatian team that isn’t Germany, that isn’t Brazil, that isn’t Holland or Spain,” the 1986 World Cup winner told Venezuelan TV channel Telesur.