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World Cup Preview: Belgium v Panama

Belgium head into their Group G opener as one of the tournament favourites looking to hit the ground running in Russia. Hoping to cause an early tournament upset is minnows Panama making their maiden World Cup appearance.

Belgium vs Panama

Belgium and Panama face each other for the first time and all eyes will be fixed firmly on the Belgium side in this one, after an impressive qualification campaign in which they won all but one of their games. They are expected to start strong against their much weaker opponents.

Panama have already shocked the world by making it to the finals at the expense of the United States. Getting beyond the group stages is surely beyond the World Cup debutantes and anything other than a heavy defeat here would be impressive.

Belgium’s Quality

Roberto Martinez has a team that is stacked with quality throughout and that comes with expectation. One of the bookmaker’s favourites to win the tournament, the Red Devils will be looking to start well and do something special in Russia.

The Belgians netted an impressive 43 goals in their ten qualification games, more than any other European nation. Manchester United frontman Romelu Lukaku heads into the World Cup in fine form, hitting 11 goals in the qualifiers.

Others will be hoping to shine too. Eden Hazard managed six goals and five assists whilst a sparkling season at Premier League winners Manchester City has many looking forward to the exploits of Kevin De Bruyne.

Belgium have maintained their unbeaten run through their warm-up fixtures. They managed four wins from six friendly games, conceding just one goal in their last five. Everything is in place for Belgium to thrive this summer and a comfortable win here will set them on their way nicely.


Panama are the weakest team in the tournament, on paper, in their first World Cup. They will have very different expectations of this summer. It was a fantastic achievement to qualify against the odds, but they are not expected to get beyond the group phase.

Panama have played eight friendly fixtures since qualifying, winning two. However, goals are an issue for the Central American side. Los Canaleros have netted just one goal in their last five games.

Manager Hernan Gomez does have World Cup experience, having coached Colombia to the finals in 1998 and Ecuador in 2002. He will need every bit of that experience if he is to lead Panama to anything other than a heavy defeat in their opener.

The Match

Belgium and Panama kick off their World Cup campaign at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi.

Belgium’s fast-paced, attacking football will be too much for Panama. Not only will Belgium be expected to beat one of the lowest ranked teams in the tournament but they will be expected to do it comfortably.

It’s difficult to make a case for Panama as they go up against Belgium’s world-class talent. Underdogs can surprise and sometimes do, both Belgium and Panama will be aware of this. Panama caused an upset by merely getting here, winning would be something else.

Predicted Line-ups

Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Ciman, Vertonghen, Meunier, Carrasco, Witsel, De Bruyne, Mertens, E. Hazard and Lukaku.

Panama: Penedo, R. Torres, Escobar, Machado, Ovalle, Murillo, Gomez, Avila, Barcenas, Godoy and G. Torres.

Prediction: Belgium 5-0 Panama.

Main Photo


Embed from Getty Images


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