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Belgium vs Panama
2018 FIFA World Cup, Group G
|Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi|
Belgium have opened their World Cup finals account with all three points after defeating Panama 3-0 at the Fisht Olympic stadium.
Despite a first poor half, Belgium came out in the second 45 and played a better brand of football. Dries Mertens got the first with a volley out of the top drawer.
Romelu Lukaku got the other two goals to round off a solid 3-0 win for Belgium.
Panama will play their first ever World Cup finals match against Belgium at the Fisht Olympic stadium. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 1am (AEST).
This clash is big for both sides, but for two completely different reasons. For Belgium, it’s because they need to get off to a good start.
Sides that tend to have success at major tournaments start well, so that will be at the back of their minds. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have to play well, but find a way to get all three points.
There is no denying they have the talent within their squad, and Roberto Martinez needs to find way to get every little bit of that talent out over the next month.
Some feel this is the golden generation for Belgium, but that will mean little if they cannot find a way to win a major tournament, and I think they will be backing themselves to go deep in Russia.
The spine of the side is exceptional. Thibaut Courtois has been a top goalkeeper for a number of years, and in front of him, he has some exceptional centre back’s in the likes of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld.
A player of Kevin De Bruyne’s talent in midfield gives them the edge over most. His ability to pass, create and score makes him a valuable member. He also knows how to control the tempo of a football match, which was massive in Manchester City winning the Premier League title this season.
Eden Hazard is up there as Belgium’s best player, and one does get the feeling he will need to be at his best if Belgium are to make it deep into the tournament. The same can be said for Romelu Lukaku, who is a natural goal scorer.
As for Panama, this is a big clash simply because it’s their first at a World Cup finals. No one expects anything from them which allows them to play without any pressure, but they will want to give a good account of themselves regardless.
They are a bit of an unknown quantity, but the player to watch for Panama in my eyes has to be 19-year-old winger Jose Luis Rodridguez. He is yet to make his senior debut for Gent, but should he start, he will be looking to show that fearless attitude most kids have.
He could be Panama’s shining light come the end of the tournament.
It’s difficult to see anything but a comfortable Belgium win here. Panama no doubt will be looking to cause an upset, but with the quality Belgium possess, they are facing one of the better sides of this year’s World Cup.
Belgium 4 – Panama 0.
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 1am (AEST).