World Cup match report Belgium v Panama 18 June 2018

Ross Houston
June 21, 2018

Belgium are among the favourites to lift the trophy in Russian Federation and looked the part against the debutant Central Americans, but coach Roberto Martinez cautioned that the result didn't change the Red Devils' outlook.

Group F of the FIFA World Cup 2018 will get underway as Belgium will lock horns against Panama in style.

Martinez boasts one of the strongest squads at the tournament, with a wealth of household names at his disposal in Russian Federation.

Belgium are the favourites to advance from their group and begin their much anticipated World Cup campaign against Central American side, Panama.

Clubmate Courtois had boosted Hazard's ego in the build-up to the game by saying he had never seen him play so well in training or in matches as he has done over the last three weeks.

Unlike Germany in their match against Mexico, Belgium didn't look a side deprived of motivation.

Dries Mertens celebrates after opening the scoring for Belgium with a superb volley from the edge of the box in their 3-0 victory over Panama. Lukaku's physical gifts are obvious as he simply overpowered Erick Davis to score his first goal, then showed a deft touch to notch his second. A 0-0 stalemate with Northern Ireland was followed by a 1-0 defeat to Norway ahead of their flight to Russian Federation. That was the case in this match, and for a half their rugged defending was enough to throw Belgium off its stride a bit.

It was a match of two halves for Panama.

The Napoli man's cross looking for Lukaku was headed out by Roman Torres and on by Fidel Escobar. The power and movement of Lukaku will cause problems, and the two centre halves must hold firm against the Manchester United number nine. Adolfo Machado will likely line up at right back for Panama and must be disciplined and tuck in to support his central partners to ensure that his side do not fall victim to Hazard's old tricks.

"It was our first World Cup game and we wanted it to be ideal", said the Spaniard, who was also keen to praise the opposition.

In comes Dedyrck Boyata of Celtic to form a back three alongside Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.

De Bruyne appeared restricted alongside Axel Witsel in midfield, while Eden Hazard could not find the required space to make an impact.

If there is one weak link in the Belgian lineup, it is the continued deployment of Yannick Carrasco at left wing-back.

It has to be said that despite a much-improved second-half performance, questions are still going to be asked of them after the Panama game, but a decent result was ultimately all that mattered. Martinez said the amount of hits Hazard took is a concern. That proved to be as close as Panama got to making a game of it. With the other favorites not particularly impressing in their opening match, with just a single win shared among the established elite, Belgium manager, Roberto Martinez, will look at their match up against Panama as a chance to lay the gauntlet down and announce that Belgium as a genuine threat.

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