World Cup: England, with new team & confidence, give nation joy & optimism
England's record-breaking World Cup win against Panama in Nizhny Novgorod sets up a Group G decider with Belgium in Kaliningrad on Thursday, BBC reported.
Gareth Southgate's squad delivered an impressive show of firepower to beat Panama 6-1 and send optimism soaring as the World Cup knockout stages come into view.
But can the Three Lions continue their momentum against Belgium and then into the last 16?
The sight of Jesse Lingard ball-juggling on the bench alongside the rest of the England squad as they closed out their biggest win at a World Cup finals illustrated the mood of Gareth Southgate's squad.
England have been relaxed and comfortable since they drove through the gates of their Repino hideaway on the Gulf of Finland - and this emphatic victory over Panama was another powerful statement of intent.
Southgate's pre-match claim that his side had produced performances to match any other so far at the World Cup may be challenged by Croatia after their win against Argentina, and by their next Group H opponents Belgium, after the manner in which they put away Tunisia.
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England have, however, produced displays that have not only gleaned maximum points but lifted confidence and national expectation to levels unknown in recent years.
There is good reason for the joy and optimism, although it must also be placed in context by the mediocre opposition they faced in Tunisia and then the undisciplined Panamanians.
England's positive and upward progress can also be measured against the low point of the humiliating departure from Chantilly in France two years ago, when they beat an embarrassed retreat from their base after losing to minnows Iceland in the last 16.
Manager Roy Hodgson resigned on the spot and Southgate stepped in after Sam Allardyce's one-match reign. He has built a squad based around youth bolted on to a system and style of play he believes can show the football world another side to England's character away from the fighting spirit and passion that has been their long-time default position.
And so far, in the searing heat of Volgograd and Nizhny Novgorod, it is all going to plan as England, led from the front by a player and personality in Harry Kane who personifies the new era Southgate wants, flourish and improve.
Kane is the tournament's leading scorer and a natural fit as captain, Lingard can produce match-changing moments and all is serene as Southgate keeps his cool amid the noise of this Russian World Cup.
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My view: It was a brilliant win for England, they demolished Panama with ease, as Panama was no threat to England and historically has never scored a goal in the World Cup competition. Manchester United star Jesse Lingard has improved a lot over the last two years, his hard work is paying off, great performance at his first World Cup. The Panama team are like pinata.