Fifa World Cup 2018: Lukaku double sinks Panama as Belgium win 3-0 FT

Full-time match report:

Belgium finally got there. They didn't do it the way they would have liked to, but they got the job done. Romelu Lukaku scored a brace and Dies Mertens a screamer to ensure Belgium a 3-0 victory against the debutants Panama, who put up a spirited performance but were outclassed in the end by individual brilliance of the Belgian side in today's Group 'G' match in Sochi.

Belgium started the match in a 3-4-2-1 after being without the service of Vincent Kompany, who is still recovering from an injury. They attacked from the word go and Eden Hazard nearly scored within the first two minutes. Belgium got really close to opening the scoring in the eleventh minute when Eden Hazard chased a long ball which should have been comfortably cleared by Roman Torres but he instead miscued the pass to his goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. The onrushing Hazard intercepted the ball and side-footed his strike that ended up hitting the side-netting. Within a few minutes, Dies Mertens also miscued a good chance to the side-netting. 

By the 25th minute, Belgium hadn't been able to find the net but Panama had hardly been able to cross their half of the pitch. However, as the Belgians grew more sluggish in the third front, Panama did try and make a few forays into the Belgium side although they couldn't take their chances too well. As the first-half neared its conclusion, the Belgians grew more frustated having not scored in a half which they dominated but couldn't really stamp their authority in.

Belgium weren't really poor in the first half as the scoreline might suggest, but they have lacked sharpness in front of the goal despite creating many goal-scoring opportunities and that cost them.

Two minutes after returning from the half-time break, Dies Mertens scored a stunning volley to break the deadlock. Panama could only half-clear a Belgium corner and Mertens, who was near the edge of the right hand side hit a dipping volley into the bottom left-hand corner to push his team into the lead. Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku, who had been a mere spectator until the first 60 minutes, suddenly came alive and scored a double within six minutes to pile on to the misery of the first-time Panama team. 

The first goal came in the 69th minute when Kevin De Bruyne, who had not been at his best, slipped a curling cross to Lukaku inside the box. The striker ended the move with a diving header, driving his team into a 2-0 lead. His second came in the 75th minute when he was fed a through on goal by Eden Hazard. Lukaku kept pace with the ball and dinked it over the onrushing Panama keeper to put the contest to bed. 

Belgium weren't certainly at their best but they managed to emerge victors by the end of the match, courtsey a Lukaku double. They go top of the table in group 'G'. The match should calm their nerves and give their team time to settle. But they must do more against more formidable opponents. As for Panama, they have their enthusiasm and their passion, but expecting anything else at this point might be unrealistic.

Live updates: 

Minutes 93 -- That's it!! The refree blows his whistle. Panama's debut World Cup game ends in defeat.

Minute 89 -- Witself makes way for Chadli.

Minute 88 -- de Bruyne is shown a yellow card.

Minute 82 -- After his stunner, Mertens makes way for Eden Hazard's brother, Thorgan.

Minute 81-- Free-kick to Belgium. Mertens is felled by a Panama defender after the wingers plays a one-two with Lukaku and approaches Panema's box. Hazard hits the free-kick directly at the wall.

GOAL! Minute 75 -- Another goal for Lukaku. The striker is put through on goal by Eden Hazard and then dinks the ball over the onrushing keeper. Surely, the Manchester United keeper has put the contest to bed. Belgium 3- Panama 0

GOAL! Minute 69 -- Romelu Lukaku gets on the end of a Kevin De Bruyne cross from the left side of the penalty area to score with a diving header. Belgium 2-Panama 0

Minute 62 -- J Rodriguez makes way for Diaz in a Panama substitution.Edgar Barcanes gets off the pitch as Gabriel Torres makes his way into it.

Minute 58 -- Belgium's Jan Vertonghen is flashed a yellow card.

Minute 56 -- Anibal Godoy is the latest player to receive a yellow card for his troubles.

Minute 48 -- Yellow card to Cooper yellow for felling Hazard.

Minute 54 -- Panama nearly score. Murillo timed his run perfectly to a cross and side-footed his effort but Courtois makes an incredible effort and saves it. Corner to Panama.

Minute 47 -- Dies Mertens scores a stunning volley to break the deadlock. Panama could only half-clear a Belgium corner and Mertens, who was near the edge of the right-hand side hit a dipping volley into the bottom left-hand corner.

Half-time analysis: Half-time report: First-timers Panama have managed to keep a team of Romelo Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, and Dies Mertens from scoring a single goal against them in today's match in Sochi. At least that's how the story has been until the half time. Belgium haven't really been poor as the scoreline might suggest, but they have lacked sharpness in front of the goal despite creating many goal-scoring opportunities and that has cost them.

Belgium started the match in a 3-4-2-1 after being without the service of Vincent Kompany, who is still recovering from an injury. They attacked from the word go and Eden Hazard nearly scored within the first two minutes. Belgium got really close to opening the scoring in the eleventh minute when Eden Hazard chased a long ball which should have been comfortably cleared by Roman Torres but he instead miscued his pass to his goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. The onrushing Hazard intercepted the ball and side-footed his strike that ended up hitting the side-netting. Within a few minutes, Dies Mertens also miscued a good chance to the side-netting. 

By the 25th minute, Belgium hadn't been able to find the net but Panama had hardly been able to cross their half of the pitch. However, as the Belgians grew more sluggish in the third front, Panama did try and make a few forays into the Belgium side although they couldn't take their chances too well. As the first-half neared its conclusion, the Belgians grew more frustated having not scored in a half which they dominated but couldn't really stamp their authority in.

Second-half follows:

Live updates: 

Minute 45 -
- Edgar Barcenas is shown the yellow card after he pulls and drags Carrasco to the ground when the winger was speeding down the left wing.

Minute 41 -- Amanda Cooper takes a shot from outside the box after a series of inter-play between the Panama players. But he shoots his effort over the bar.

Minute 39 - Lukaku is released but the onrushing Panama goalkeeper gets to the ball before him.

Minute 37 -- Panama goalkeeper Penedo parris away Eden Hazard shot at his near post. Belgium get the corner but Panama manage a counter-attack which also results in a corner. Nothing comes of either of the corners.

Minute 26 -- Free-kick to Belgium after Murillo brings down Hazard on the let-wing. De Bryune stands behind the free-kick but his strike hits one of the two players in the wall, Cooper, who is down and the medical team rushes in.

Minute 20 -- Uff!! Looks like Belgium will score anytime soon. Another attack from the flanks and it's Mertens again who plays the ball towards the far post. Lukaku is lurking there and ready to pounce but a brilliant interception from Torres keeps the score goal-less. De Bruyne then fires a long-ranger that flies just above the post.

Minute 17 -- Another Belgium attack ends up hitting the side-netting as Napoli's Dries Mertens is teed up just inside the penalty area, but he fires his shot wide.

Minute 11 -- Eden Hazard goes close after he chases a long ball which should have been comfortably cleared by Roman Torres but he instead miscues his pass to his goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. The onrushing Hazard intercepts the ball and side-foots his strike that, to Panama's huge relief, ends up hitting the side-netting.

Minute 10 -- It's all Begium in the starting minutes, as expected. Belgium are repeatedly building-up from the back and launching waves of attack.

Minute 3 -- First free-kick for debutants Panama. Eric Davis takes the free kick from right box the box but Courtois deals easily with it.

Peeeeeppppppp!! The game starts!

Strating line-ups: 

Belgium (3-4-2-1): Courtois, Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen, Meunier, Witsel, De Bruyne, Carrasco, Mertens, E. Hazard, R. Lukaku.

Subs: Mignolet, Casteels, Kompany, Dendoncker, Hazard, Tielemans, Dembele, Fellaini, Chadli, Januzaj, Batshuayi.

Panama (4-1-4-1): Penedo, Murillo, Escobar, R Torres, Davis, Gomez, Godoy, Cooper, J Rodriguez, Barcenas, Perez.

Subs: Claderon, A Rodriguez, Cummings, G Torres, Diaz, Machado, Pimentel, Arroyo, Ovalle, Tejada, Avila, Baloy.

 

FYI - BELPAN formations WorldCup pic.twitter.com/rLzJ8MgnXS

— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 18 2018

Trivia:

-- Dries Mertens is the first Belgian player to score in two different World Cup tournaments since Marc Wilmots (1998 and 2002).  (Source: OptaJoe)

-- Romelu Lukaku is the only Belgian player that Kevin De Bruyne hasn't successfully passed to in the first half vs Panama. (Source: OptaJoe)

-- Romelu Lukaku has been directly involved in 12 of Belgium's last 18 goals. (Source: OptaJoe)

-- Kevin de Bruyne's assist for Romelu Lukaku was only his second successful pass to the striker in the match (69th minute) (Source: OptaJoe)

Belgium vs Panama: Belgium sit third in the FIFA rankings and boast about what is frequently labelled a golden generation featuring the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne have come to Russia with a considerable weight of expectation on their shoulders.

Match preview: Belgium vs Panama

The strong Belgium side with some big names in the business are expected to run riot against proverbial minnows Panama in a Group G World Cup clash here on Monday.

Wide forward Dries Mertens though cautioned his team not to take their opponents lightly after Iceland's surprise draw with Argentina.

"Yeah, it is a World Cup, so every team that is there can play. They have something," Napoli star Mertens said. "I think Iceland is a very good team and I hope we can play against Panama and play our game and that we can win.

"I don't know that much (about them) but we are starting tonight with that," he said of the Central American country.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez lauded Panama for getting to the World Cup.

"What I expect is a group with great ambition," Martinez said. Getting to the World Cup was a great result for Panama and the Panamanian people. A team that knocked out a nation like the United States deserves a lot of respect. They are fighters, they have a great mentality and are very competitive."

"I don't expect an easy game. The first game in the World cup is always difficult," he added.

The likes of Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea's Eden Hazard and Manchester City's Kevin de Bruyne are three of the many names who star for their clubs throughout the season and will now look to click as a unit for Belgium on the biggest stage.

In the midfield, Mousa Dembele, Yannick Carrasco and Axel Witsel are expected to start.

Belgium had injury concerns at the back with veteran leader Vincent Kompany and FC Barcelona's Thomas Vermaelen recovering and coach Martinez has sent standby defender Laurent Ciman home. Tottenham's central defensive pairing of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen will be key to protect Thibaut Courtois' goal.

Belgium were unbeaten in their qualifying campaign and after the quarter-final disappointment at Euro 2016, Martinez would aim to inspire his boys to do better.

On paper, a talented Belgium side should have way too much firepower for Panama, who make history in their first ever game at a World Cup.

Panama Squad
Panama have built their reputation on a solid defence and a physical style of play under experienced coach Hernan 'Bolillo' Gomez.

The central Americans have not impressed in warm-up games and it remains to see if their first ever World Cup match will be a Cinderella fairy tale or a rude awakening.

Strikers Blas Perez and Ismael Diaz and defender Felipe Baloy, both 37, played big roles in their qualification campaign and they will be key to Panama's chances. Aníbal Godoy and Armando Cooper are key midfielders.

When and where to watch Panama vs Belgium live:

FIFA World Cup 2018 Panama vs Belgium match will take place on Monday, June 18, 2018 at 8.30 PM .

FIFA World Cup Panama vs Belgium will be broadcast on Sony Ten 2, Sony Ten 2 HD, Sony ESPN, Sony ESPN HD in English Commentary and Sony Ten 3 and Sony 3 HD in Hindi Commentary.

Panama vs Belgium match will be available for live streaming on Sony Liv. And Both Airtel and Jio would broadcast the FIFA World Cup 2018 matches for free to their respective subscribers.

Probable squads for Panama vs Belgium match:

Belgium squad: Thibaut Courtois; Jan Vertonghen, Dedryck Boyata, Toby Alderweireld; Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Meunier; Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard; Romelu Lukaku

Panama squad: Jaime Penedo; Roman Torres, Fidel Escobar, Eric Davis, Michael Murillo; Gabriel Gomez, Anibal Godoy, Armando Cooper, Edgar Barcenas, Jose Luis Rodriguez; Blas Perez

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