(Updated) Belgium outclass Panama in 3-0 win


When Panama sealed qualification for the World Cup for the first time a national holiday was announced. Belgium will have a point to prove this time and show this team has finally come of age to win a major tournament and put their doubters in place big time.

Belgium's individual strengths made up for their failings at a collective level, as they took control of a match without ever producing their best football.

Players of Belgium greet supporters after the FIFA World Cup 2018 group G preliminary round soccer match between Belgium and Panama in Sochi, Russia. For them, just being at the World Cup is enough - and they rightly took the acclaim of the crowd at the end.

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

Where Belgium were top goal scorers, Panama qualified for the World Cup on a negative one goal difference with no Panama player scoring more than two goals.

Another of Belgium's Premier League stars provided Lukaku with his second as Chelsea playmaker Hazard burst forward on the counter and released the 25-year-old for a deft chip over Penedo - his 38th worldwide goal in 70 caps. Adolfo Machado will likely line up at right back for Panama and must be disciplined and tuck in to support his central partners to ensure that his side do not fall victim to Hazard's old tricks. However, the latest on him is that he could yet start Panama's first game.

Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel sit at the heart of the midfield four, providing an effective mix of flair, creativity, dynamism and steel.

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".

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Panama, meanwhile, are troubled by a couple of injury concerns ahead of their Group G opener.

Eden Hazard, meanwhile, will look to cut in from the left-hand side at will, as he has become famed for at Chelsea, and attack the heart of Panama's defence with his pacey and powerful direct runs through the channels. Martinez said the amount of hits Hazard took is a concern.

Hazard came close to opening the scoring in the 12th minute.

At the start of the second half, Belgium picked up exactly where they left off in the first and scored a goal within minutes.

The odds are apparently in favour of Belgium heading into this game.

Panama's few possessions were snuffed out before a serious attack could be threatened, as Belgium's strong backline kept them from even putting a ball into the penalty area.

On the other hand, Belgium will have their focus fixed on the clash against England which could be a potential decider for the group victor later on.

Group rivals England will look to respond to Belgium's win when they kick off their campaign against Tunisia but this was not entirely the statement of intent that Roberto Martinez's side would have been hoping to make.