Russia World Cup 2018 watch: England's performance makes us dream after 52 years of hurt
PUBLISHED: 07:06 25 June 2018 | UPDATED: 07:47 25 June 2018
Read Layth Yousif’s World Cup blog after England’s stunning, sublime – and quite frankly unbelievable – 6-1 victory over Panama which has got the country dreaming...
Nizhny Novgorod has now emphatically trumped Niigata and Monterrey as the scene of England’s biggest World Cup win.
Although, given the scale of the thrashing Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions handed out to Hernan Dario Gomez’s hapless Panama in the once great trading city built where the rivers Oka and Volga meet, perhaps the place should simply have been re-named dreamland.
For that is what it felt like watching England comprehensively dismantle the Central Americans for so many reasons on so many levels.
Not just because the half dozen goals eclipsed the 3-0 victories – against Denmark in Japan in 2002, and Gary Lineker’s treble versus Poland in Mexico 1986 – that marked their previous biggest triumphs in tournament football.
Nor, because the result saw England qualify with ease for the last 16,
Don’t forget, four years ago in Brazil, England were out after two games.
No, what made Sunday’s win so special was, for those of a certain vintage, or those that know their Three Lions history, the fact that we had to endure a lot of pain to get to this point.
Yes, it might only be Panama, but anyone who says that just doesn’t remember the dire 0-0 with Morocco in 1986
Or the tense 1-0 against Egypt at Italia ‘90; the abject failure to qualify in 1994; the pain of St Etienne in 1998, Shizuoka four years later in Japan; underwhelming 1-0’s against Paraguay and Ecuador in 2006; Rob Green’s fumble against the USA in South Africa in 2010 – as well as the dreadful 0-0 versus Algeria in the same tournament – not to mention the 0-0 against Panama’s next door neighbours Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte in 2014 – a nameplace which also conjures up the 1-0 humiliation against America in 1950.
As an aside, a Fleet Street copytaker, listening to an English journalist phoning his copy through from that tournament 68 years ago, simply couldn’t understand the reporter had said England had lost 1-0, thought they had misheard, blaming it on a bad phone line, and printed the score as 10-0 to Walter Winterbottom’s side.
Harry Kane’s hat-trick, with two first half goals and a penalty, coupled with his brace against Tunisia meant he flew to the top of the goalscorers’ charts in a bid to become the first Englishman to clinch the Golden Boot since Lineker 32 years ago.
The fact he moved about England’s 2006 nemesis, Ronaldo of Portugal in this edition’s list only added to the satisfaction.
John Stones’ double with Jesse Lingard also meant Southgate’s men scored as many goals against Panama as they had done in their previous seven World Cup matches as they raced to eight goals in this tournament in only two games.
Given the scale of miserable underachievement and 52 years of hurt prior to this tournament, the total so far is already joint the second highest scored by a Three Lions side in the global jamboree, level with 1990 and 1954, with only, yes, 1966, ahead on the list at 11.
It was appropriate in a city associated with military secrecy and exiled dissidents – as befits a place that, since the Second World War, had been a major centre of the Russian military industrial complex – that the Panamanians set up in a mysterious 6-3-1 formation that was intended to baffle and frustrate their rivals.
As it was it took their opponents all of eight minutes to fathom out how to put the ball in the net.
It was Kieran Trippier – whose proficiency with the dead ball, allied with his attacking verve and energy, and defensive discipline down the right flank, makes him such an important component of the side in his role as a right-wing back – who helped unlock the backline from a corner which saw a well-worked routine in the box, allowing Stones the freedom of Nizhy to head home and open the floodgates.
It’s always satisfying for a manager to see a training ground routine come off so handsomely, and Southgate was so delighted his almost fist pumped the arm belonging to his dislocated shoulder – a fortuitous injury is ever there was one.
Especially for those who can still recall the only dislocated shoulder England suffered at a tournament was Bryan Robson’s in Mexico in 1986, which put him out of the competition, in a midfield which allowed the genius that was Maradona to run through it.
Now, with the good fortune that England seem to possess under the likeable and quietly impressive Southgate the only serious injury so far is one which has happened to the manager, and which takes all the pressure off his team during those long hours and days between matches.
It will be interesting to see what his next trick is in the side’s training base of Repino in the build up to the Belgium game this week.
For now the nation can luxuriate in a job well done, a real sense of pride in our team, an excitement and genuine anticipation of just how far this side can go in a tournament where the traditional big guns have failed to shine so far.
For me, who still recalls all those years of hurt, and who lived most of it at various tournaments, or frozen in disappointment in front of the TV, I’m still not getting carried away.
Call it experience, or more likely, a coping mechanism against the raw pain endured during previous failures.
But, England’s stunning showing at this World Cup, however, has left even this cynical old fan – and hack – on the verge of getting excited.
It’s coming home?
Maybe, maybe not.
But, like millions of others up and down the land, it’s certainly ‘got me dreaming...’
Follow Layth on Twitter @laythy29