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Three things we learned at the World Cup

Kane took control of the race for the Golden Boot as a ruthless England thrashed Panama © AFP / Dimitar DILKOFF

SAINT PETERSBURG, Russian Federation, Jun 24Harry Kane scored a hat-trick as England thrashed Panama to seal qualification to the World Cup knock-out stage on Sunday.

While Gareth Southgate’s side will join Belgium in the last 16, Group H is still up for grabs after Colombia eased past Poland and Japan drew with Senegal.

Here, AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the World Cup today.

Who wants to finish first in Group G?

England’s thumping 6-1 win over Panama leaves them equal with Belgium on points, goal difference and goals scored ahead of the teams’ decisive meeting on Thursday.

A draw in Kaliningrad would mean the group’s top two spots will be decided on disciplinary points, with England currently ahead on two yellow cards to Belgium’s three.

The question is which spot is more advantageous? First place could meet in-form Colombia and then Germany in the quarter-finals while the runners-up may face Japan or Senegal, before potentially Mexico in the last eight.

For now, it is all guesswork, of course, but whoever loses out between Belgium and England may not be overly worried.

Panama offer a glimpse of super-sized World Cup

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In their debut tournament, Panama scored their first World Cup goal, no matter that it came when England were already six up. Panama’s fans celebrated it like a match-winner and who could begrudge them that after announcing themselves on the highest stage?

For many, however, their drubbing was a glimpse of the future, in 2026, when the World Cup will expand from 32 to 48 teams, allowing more sides like Panama in.

In fact, Panama’s ‘Concacaf’ zone, comprising of North and Central America and the Caribbean, will be one of the biggest winners, bumping their entrance up from three and a half teams to six.

The colour and character of the competition will swell but, certainly in the early rounds, the cost is likely to be competitiveness.

Lewandowski and Poland flop again

One of the more notable aspects of this World Cup so far has been the form of the forwards, with most of the Golden Boot favourites already off the mark.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane, Diego Costa, Romelu Lukaku, Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez and Neymar are all up and running but Robert Lewandowski looks set for more disappointment.

Poland’s limp 3-0 loss to Colombia, coming after Japan had drawn 2-2 with Senegal, means they cannot progress. And while it is true Lewandowski does not enjoy the same service as his rivals, his status as one of the game’s deadliest predators has not been in evidence in Russia.

His blunt display against a ruthless Colombia team was at least in keeping with the entire Polish performance.

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