Belgium too good for plucky Panama

Lynette Rowe
June 19, 2018

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez hailed his side's attitude after they overcame a hard first half to beat Panama 3-0 in their opening World Cup game on Monday.

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. Eden Hazard picked off a poor back-pass from Roman Torres five minutes later, only to shoot into the side netting.

Panama caused a sensation by qualifying for Russian Federation from the CONCACAF zone at the expense of the United States, but they have been handed just about the toughest start imaginable - a star-studded Belgium await in Sochi on Monday evening.

Mertens' superb opening goal kicked Belgium into action against Panama.

Panama's chances were limited to a tame hook from Torres and a speculative effort that flew well over from Armand Cooper. The heat and humidity here in southern Russian Federation could help them against Belgium, but their recent record is a source of concern, particularly in front of goal.

Panama's best chance to equalise came eight minutes later when makeshift wing-back Carrasco switched off from his defensive duties to allow Michael Murillo a one-on-one that was saved by Thibaut Courtois.

Unlike the other World Cup favourites that struggled through their opening matches, Belgium looked every part the title contender.

If you have cable or satellite then use the Fox Sports Go website or mobile app to login with your provider's credentials and access the Fox live stream for Belgium vs Panama.

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Panama failed to clear their lines properly and when the ball fell to Mertens on the right side of the penalty area, the Napoli forward thumped a dipping volley that flew past Penedo. Jaime Penedo in goal is 36, while Blas Perez up front is 37.

Penedo added, "In the first half, we had order, an ordered team".

"Getting the first win is always a special moment", Martinez said.

Belgium starting XI: Courtois, Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen, Meunier, Witsel, De Bruyne, Carrasco, Mertens, E. Hazard, R. Lukaku. "They were very well organized but our extra quality showed in the second half".

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Belgium take on Tunisia in their second match on Saturday, 23 June (13:00 BST), before Panama are England's second opponents a day later (13:00 BST).

Panama boss, Hernan Gomez will, however, be managing his third World Cup with a third different team.

This World Cup has been such a treat that we can not seem to turn our heads in any direction without seeing an absolutely stunning goal being scored. "We will keep growing and learning". Panama's lack of precision ultimately cost them dear. "We showed in this game that we can live at his level". For them, just being at the World Cup is enough - and they rightly took the acclaim of the crowd at the end.

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