Sport

Lukaku leads Belgium past Panama

Lukaku leads Belgium past Panama

"There are no easy games in a World Cup", said manager Roberto Martinez in his last news conference before the game.

Belgium huffed and puffed in a goalless first half before finally blowing Panama's door down in the second with three goals. Hazard even showed some grit to help keep the play alive for Mertens to score the critical first goal.

MF Axel Witsel, 6 - Didn't have much to do during the game, as Panama's midfielders were just too weak to make it a hard afternoon for the midfielder from Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian.

Panama starting XI: Penedo, Murillo, Escobar, R Torres, Davis, Gomez, Godoy, Cooper, J Rodriguez, Barcenas, Perez.

Belgium were frustrated for the first 45 minutes but Mertens broke the deadlock two minutes after the restart with a superb shot into the opposite corner beyond a helpless Jaime Penedo in the Panama goal. Les Diables Rouges do not have a history of winning big in the competition, but after recording some impressive scorelines in the qualifiers they kept their momentum going against the Panamanians. They have impressed in their pre-tournament friendlies and have a number of world-class players at the peak of their powers. It's the first World Cup for this team and it would be considered a major success if the side can earn a point in group play.

"In the World Cup you have to play 90 minutes".

With a likely top of the table clash against England on the final group game, Belgium need to get off the ground running if they wish to amend the mistakes that their competitors made in other groups.

Dries Mertens scored the opening goal for Belgium against Panama
Dries Mertens scored the opening goal for Belgium against Panama

Preview: Hernan Dario Gomez leads minnows Panama into their World Cup debut on Monday mindful that Iceland's efforts in holding Argentina have shown that "anything can happen". The match is the second one on Day 5 of the FIFA World Cup in Russian Federation. Though lacking imagination, Les Diables Rouges still created the clearest chances, with Panama captain Roman Torres working wonders to put a unsafe cross from Kevin De Bruyne out for a corner with 22 minutes gone.

Belgium is now unbeaten in its last six World Cup openers, dating back to a 1986 loss to Mexico in the opener. A state-of-the-art facility, it was built for the 2014 Winter Olympics and hosted its opening and closing ceremonies.

It was a match of two halves for Panama. Hazard was a menace throughout much of the match and his assist for Lukaku's second was perfectly timed.

The FIFA World Cup 2018 Belgium vs Panama match will be broadcast live on Sony ESPN/HD, Sony TEN 2/HD and Sony TEN 3/HD.

The Belgium captain, deputising for the injured Vincent Kompany, shook off the blows and forced Penedo into a save with his legs, as Panama remained relatively comfortable.

SI TV is also now available on fuboTV.

Troubled Germany Look To Make A Statement Against Experienced Mexico
Loew probably had said a lot to his team at half-time and it showed with Germany pushing hard against Mexico in the second half. Germany hadn't been beaten in their opening World Cup match since 1982, which made Mexico's victory all the more impressive.



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