England less threatening than Belgium, says Panama's Rodriguez

Lynette Rowe
June 21, 2018

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the US national team for ESPN FC. Belgium was knocking on the door and Dries Mertens finally broke a 0-0 tie with a fantastic goal in the second half.

Roberto Martinez, the Belgium coach, was distinctly unhappy afterwards with the treatment Eden Hazard got and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois talked about a need for referees to clamp down on the "cheap and unnecessary tackles" he felt Panama administered.

Southgate's side will require patience as attempt to pick their way through what will be a congested final third, but there are lessons that to be learnt from Belgium's first half frustrations. Kevin De Bruyne picked the pocket of Fidel Escobar and appeared to have Romelu Lukaku picked out for a tap-in, but Torres slid in sharply with a vital deflection.

On 37 minutes, Hazard was sent clear with a long ball after showing good control towards the box- brought the best out of Penedo.

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". It didn't take almost that long this time, though it did take something special.

The Manchester United striker followed up Dries Mertens' wonder volley at the Fisht Olympic Stadium to settle the Belgian nerves with two second-half goals. So for Panama, even in defeat, it proved to be a day to remember.

He added: 'He did not have a bad game. Rather than shooting through a crowd of Panama defenders, De Bruyne cut a pass with the outside of his right foot onto Lukaku's head and into the net.

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Belgium secured all three points in what was a comfortable victory against Hernán Darío Gómez's side, as Romelu Lukaku looks to secure the Golden Boot this summer.

"England are a bit more direct than Belgium". But there were warning signs as well.

Panama had a couple of late opportunities but Courtois had routine saves.

Belgium and England are expected to duke it out for top spot in the group, and this match at least showed that Panama will not be a threat to that aim - insofar as Gareth Southgate's men will also be expecting to come through wminimalinal fuss when the sides meet next week.

It's an age-old accusation that Lukaku gets all his goals against so-called lesser sides and one he'll be familiar with, so we'll just have to wait and see how he fares against some of the world's elite if his nation progresses.

Michael Murillo at right-back looked promising (though that could be down to Martinez's choice down the left) and the midfield pairing of Anibal Godoy and Armando Cooper did a fine job of keeping Eden Hazard as best as they could, but they lacked the overall quality to make a serious impression in the game.

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