VOLGOGRAD, Russia — Twice wrestled to the ground during the match, England captain Harry Kane finally evaded the Tunisian defense just as time was running out.
Kane found an open area of space at the far post and used his head to meet Harry Maguire’s flick-on, scoring the winning goal Monday in a 2-1 victory at the World Cup.
It was relief for Kane and Gareth Southgate, who leapt into the air in delight as his World Cup debut as a coach got off to a winning start.
“The best teams in the world keep that belief in what they’re doing,” Southgate said, “and in the end they break the opposition down.”
England shouldn’t have found it so tough in its Group G opener against such opposition. Not after Kane got England off to a perfect start with an 11th-minute tap in. But after Kyle Walker softly conceded a penalty that Ferjani Sassi converted in the 35th, many of the fouls went against England.
“Maybe there was a bit of justice at the end,” Kane said.
Finally, Kane showcased on the international stage the predatory instinct in front of goal that has served Tottenham so well. Only two years ago, the striker failed to find the net at the 2016 European Championship, which ended in humiliation with a loss to Iceland in the last 16.
At the last World Cup, England couldn’t even win a game. Low expectations for this year’s overhauled team were dispelled early in Russia when Kane reacted quickly to score after John Stones’ header was saved. But England struggled to finish it off.
When Walker’s flailing arm caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, a penalty was awarded and Sassi slotted it in to equalize.
England’s players later thought they deserved the same verdict when Kane was grappled to the ground twice by Tunisians on either side of the halftime break. Both times, the referee decided against punishing the culprits.
Despite it all, Kane remained patient and delivered in the first minute of stoppage time.
“You go until the last second,” Kane said, “and I’m absolutely buzzing.”
Belgium 3, Panama 0: Belgium broke lose in the second half to defeat newcomer Panama in its opening World Cup game in Sochi.
After struggling to find the net in the first half, the talented Belgian squad comfortably reached victory with a goal by Dries Mertens and two by Romelu Lukaku.
Mertens opened the scoring with a well-struck one-timer from just inside the area after the Panamanian defense failed to clear a ball two minutes after halftime. Lukaku doubled to the lead with a header in the 69th after a great play by Kevin De Bruyne, and closed the scoring after a breakaway six minutes later following a through ball by Eden Hazard.
Michael Murillo had Panama’s best chance of the game when he received a pass free from markers inside the area in the 54th, but the defender didn’t control the ball cleanly and allowed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to make a save charging from the net.
The Panamanians are making their first World Cup appearance.
Their fans largely outnumbered the Belgians at Fisht Stadium and constantly chanted in support of their team, even when trailing by three goals.
Sweden 1, South Korea 0: .Andreas Granqvist slid his penalty kick into the bottom right corner of the net in the 65th minute to give Sweden a victory over South Korea on Monday at the World Cup
The Swedes were awarded the penalty after referee Joel Aguilar consulted a video screen on the sideline following an appeal from players.