NIZHNY NOVGOROD • England coach Gareth Southgate was keeping his feet firmly on the ground after England's 6-1 World Cup group-stage rout of Panama yesterday, declaring: "I didn't particularly like the performance".
With a grin, Southgate explained to the BBC: "I'm being hyper-critical, but I didn't like the start. I didn't like the (Panama) goal at the end. But the bits in the middle were pretty good though.
"I just thought we were a little anxious at the start. And, at half-time (5-0 up), we talked about one more goal to be top of the group, that's why the goal at the end was disappointing.
"But it is rewarding to see how the players are playing and how they are enjoying their football. Confidence-wise, it was important that we were able to score goals. Our set plays were also a threat."
Southgate was speaking after a hat-trick from Harry Kane, a double from John Stones and a wonder strike from Jesse Lingard eliminated Panama and gave England passage into the knockout stage.
As it stands, England are level on wins and goal difference with also-qualified Belgium (two wins out of two, eight goals scored, two goals conceded) but top Group G by virtue of fewer yellow cards - two compared to the Belgians' three.
The countries meet in Kaliningrad on Thursday. Asked about possible changes to his XI to face Belgium, Southgate commented: "I want to keep the momentum, we have to think about the team we want to put out, it's an opportunity for players who need a match but we want to keep winning."
He may not be completely satisfied, but England yesterday were a team that showed patience, a calm head in front of goal, an all-for-one-and-one-for-all team spirit that rendered the Panamanians' attempts at intimidation pointless.
In short, England looked like the real deal. Largely solid at the back and industrious in midfield, they found the scoring touch, and it will have pleased Southgate that the goals came from all areas.
It was their biggest-ever World Cup victory - thoroughly eclipsing the 3-0 against Denmark in 2006.
Time that a World Cup team have scored five in one half, and the first time since Germany did it to Brazil in 2014.
England were 5-0 up by the interval and Kane's third goal followed in the 62nd minute and, after that, it came as a jolt that the only other goal came off a Panama foot.
Kane is now the leading scorer in the tournament with five goals and he is also only the third England player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup match, after Geoff Hurst in the 1966 final, and Gary Lineker against Poland in 1986.
"First time in a long time since we've seen a hat-trick from an England player in the World Cup, absolutely delighted for Harry and the team," tweeted Hurst.
For Kane, he insisted he was just focusing on the Belgium game.
"There's still a lot of hard work to go," he said. "We're a bit disappointed to concede a goal at the end. We'll go into the last game looking to win, of course."
It was the first time since the 1966 victorious final that England have managed four goals or more in a World Cup match.
They had also never before scored five first-half goals and it is only the third time in England's history, out of 24 attempts, when they have begun any major tournament by winning back-to-back matches, emulating their World Cup teams of 1982 and 2006.
Panama's ordeal did at least include a 76th-minute consolation goal for substitute Felipe Baloy.
Ultimately, though, the imbalance of talent was far too great.
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE