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Sports

Group G: Belgium, England stamp their authority

media Tunisia's Mouez Hassen makes a save during the match against England in Volgograd, Russia on 18 June, 2018. Reuters/Gleb Garanich

Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane both bagged a brace as Belgium and England respectively secured three points against Panama and Tunisia to head Group G after the opening round of games.

The pacesetters meet in Kaliningrad on 28 June in what will be a decider as to who tops the group provided they both get results in the second games. On 23 June in Moscow, Belgium face Tunisia and the following day in Nizhny Novgorod England play Panama.

The goals for Lukaku and Kane came in differing conditions. Lukaku, already his country’s record goalscorer at the age of 25, scored his 37th and 38th international goals as Belgium crushed a tiring Panama 3-0 at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi. Dries Mertens had given the 2014 World Cup quarter-finalists the lead just after the pause.

England skipper Kane gave his side the advantage after 11 minutes. He stabbed home after the Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen had saved John Stones’s goal bound header.

Ferjani Sassi levelled for Tunisia via the penalty spot just before half time. With the clock ticking down and the north Africans seemingly content with a 1-1 draw, Kane nodded in from close range following a corner in stoppage time.

"I'm so proud of the lads," Kane said. "They kept going, kept going to the last second. It shows good character to get the job done."

England manager Gareth Southgate, who stressed ahead of the clash that he wants to set a new template of possession based football, added: "At 1-1 we kept looking for the win. We didn’t flap and we didn’t lob the ball forward aimlessly. The pressure built and built.

"Maybe in the end you run out of time but I thought we kept doing the right things and making good decisions and I think we were good value for the win over 90 minutes."

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