- Mertens and Lukaku (2) scored for Belgium
- Panama held Bengium at bay in a gritty display during first half
Belgium comprehensively beats Panama 3-0 in their World Cup opener at Sochi on Monday.
First half was frustrating for Belgium and it ended goal-less. Panama played well this time to keep Belgium in check. The locals at the Fisht Stadium got behind the debutants Panama, and they were given encouragement as Hernan Dario Gomez’s side competed well during first half.
Two minutes into the second half, Dries Mertens broke the jinx. His volley from top-right corner of Panama box, broke the deadlock . Romelu Lukaku scored a brace thereafter. This is the time when Belgium played to their full potential and justified to their talented line-up. It ensured them a comfortable 3-0 victory over Panama.
Lukaku then converted assists from Kevin De Bruyne and captain Eden Hazard to secure victory in this Group G clash, with the Central Americans succumbing to a defeat in their first-ever match at the finals. The first goal of Lukaku, came from a header, whereas he places the ball to right-side of goalkeeper to goal.
The Central Americans lined up with a team of journeymen featuring five thirty-somethings. Jaime Penedo in goal is 36, while Blas Perez up front is 37. But while the Belgians had the younger, talented players, other factors played in Panama’s favour. The heat and humidity on Russia’s Black Sea coast was one, as was the fact Panama supporters greatly outnumbered those following the Belgians.
Though Belgium is now unbeaten in last 20 matches, the nature of the first-half performance against weak opposition showed that Martinez’s men still have to make significant progress if they want to progress beyond quarter-finals. Belgium could not do well in knockout round in major tournaments after they did significantly well in group league matches.
Belgium and Panama will now meet England and Tunisia in their subsequent group league matches.