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Harry Kane praised by Gareth Southgate as he takes away historic World Cup match ball

12:44 pm, 25th June 2018

Kane, who scored a hat-trick in the match which saw England beat Panama 6-1, was snapped as he landed in St Petersburg on his way to the team’s training base for Russia 2018.

The captain tweeted a picture of the team and the signed ball on the plane, writing: “Love this team. Proud of a first World Cup hat-trick. We keep going.”

A peak TV audience of 14.1 million and a further 2.8m on live stream saw England book their place in the World Cup knockout stages – a share of 82.9 per cent.

The figures were still behind England’s first Group G match against Tunisia, which was watched by a total audience of 21 million – more than the royal wedding.

England manager Gareth Southgate, interviewed after the game, said he would choose Kane over any other frontman at the World Cup.

Southgate said: “He’s started brilliantly.

“You can dismiss penalties as being easy, but the length of time he had to wait before taking that (first one) and the number of distractions, to then keep focused, start again and refocus tells you a bit about the mental toughness that he’s got.

“Look, he’s there, he’s up at the top. We wouldn’t swap him for anyone in the tournament in terms of number nines.”

He went on to say that he is “very confident” that Kane will continue to deliver.

“You know that when he gets opportunities he’s going to bury them. You sit there very confident in his ability to take chances,” he said.

“He’s not just a player that stands up front and waits for chances and that’s important within the ethic of the team we’re trying to create,” he added.

England won the game with the most goals the team have ever scored in a World Cup finals match.

The two penalties and a deflection from Harry Kane, two headers from John Stones and a strike from Jesse Lingard left Panama behind.

Kane’s hat trick was the first for England at the World Cup finals since 1986 and it made the captain the first England player to score five goals in the group stage.

Many are already tipping him for the tournament’s golden boot – the player who scores the most goals in the World Cup finals.

Southgate joked that part of the reason he was pleased with Kane’s hat-trick was that it meant the captain would be less annoyed when he was taken off the pitch during the game.

Some of England’s players were able to spend Monday morning relaxing after their emphatic victory, with none of the side which started against Panama in Nizhny Novgorod taking part of the light session back at Zelenogorsk.

England player Jesse Lingard was among those revelling in England’s victory today, tweeting a picture of his successful strike with a tornado emoji and the hashtag #JLingz.

As the team heads towards their Thursday clash with Belgium, Southgate commented: “I’ve heard talk of, ‘Is it better to finish first or second?’ I am not sure how we’re going to work all of that out really so let’s just go and enjoy the game again.

“It’s nice that it’s a game where we’re not up to our neck in pressure.

“We have got some decisions to make because the harmony of the group is important to me.”

England are now currently level with Belgium on goal difference.

The size of Panama’s defeat in Nizhy Novgorod has left some hopeful that it could mean England could go on to win the tournament for the first time since 1966, with others remaining cautious.

While the win has prompted renewed enthusiasm for England’s chances, despite early cynicism, many fans have heeded pessimistic warnings about Russian hooliganism and stayed at home.