Contenders Belgium outclass Panama in 3-0 win

Contenders Belgium outclass Panama in 3-0 win

Dries Mertens's looping volley two minutes after the break was vital to settle nerves and frustration as Belgium spent a seventh successive World Cup opener with nothing on the board at halftime. The team spirit was good.

Belgium's Romelu Lukaku scores their third goal.

Questions will have to be asked of the overall system utilised by Martinez here - and the real test of this side will come deeper into the competition - but indivudual stars like De Bruyne and Lukaku will, more often than not, have enough about them to do the necessary against teams of this calibre regardless of managerial instructions.

Belgium are now unbeaten in 20 matches, although the nature of the first-half performance against weak opposition showed that Martinez's men still have significant progress to make if they are to improve on quarter-final appearances at the last two major tournaments.

Radja Nainggolan was a high profile exclusion by roberto Martinez when he announced the final Belgium squad for the World Cup. Panama also had more success when Barcenas tucked inside and got on the ball, so it was curious to see him as one of the players brought off midway through the second half.

To be fair to Martinez, the Spaniard had warned on the eve of the game that his side would not have it easy. Panama, on the other hand, have yet to prevail in nine previous meetings with European teams, drawing four and losing five. Jaime Penedo in goal is 36, while Blas Perez up front is 37. "We are working hard as a team, but we come into the World Cup with problems putting the ball in the net".

They needed a spark from somewhere, and they got it from Mertens in the 47th minute.

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Where is FIFA World Cup 2018 Belgium vs Panama match being played?

"It was very moving to be able to sing the national anthem and represent our country", Panama captain Roman Torres said.

Within seconds, it was Mertens who tried to break the deadlock after a loose ball off a corner fell to his path but Jamie Penedo pulled off a wonderful tip over the top.

The Canaleros almost equalized in the 55th minute, but Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois was alert to the danger, and stuffed Michael Murillo's shot.

But the gulf in class began to tell as Belgium doubled their lead midway through the second half.

For the first, the 25-year-old profited from Kevin de Bruyne's brilliantly-worked assist. Panama lost 6-0 to Switzerland in their warm-up friendlies, though they might learn a thing or two from Mexico and the Swiss in how to slow down a superior opponent given Monday's results.

Belgium's three goals against the lowly Panama sees them top of their group on goal difference ahead of England, who scored a late victor on Monday night to edge past Tunisia 2-1.

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