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Belgium expecting tough test against debutants Panama

19 June, 2018, 23:13 | Author: Rachael Silva
  • Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen are battling injuries

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez felt very happy with the team's performance in their 3-0 win against Panama in the World Cup Group G opener.

Manchester United front-man Romelu Lukaku was the central figure, netting a brace to take his worldwide tally to 38 goals in 70 games, including 15 in the last 10. A victory will do for a team who are, on paper at least, good enough to go far in Russian Federation, especially after heavyweights Germany, Brazil and Argentina all slipped up over the weekend.

Martinez on Sunday said Hazard was ready to light up a tournament in the same way as Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo did with his stunning hat-trick against Spain.

Always said we should sign mertens and I still will.

Hazard is the captain of a supremely talented Red Devils side who are determined to improve on runs to the quarter-finals at each of the last two major tournaments.

"We want to represent Panama honourably".

Mertens hammered home a superb volley two minutes into the second half, sending the ball over Jaime Penedo after Panama struggled to clear a cross.

"I think Eden is in a great moment of his career, look at his age, he is the captain, in terms of leadership - he never finds it hard to show for the ball", said Martinez on the eve of the game.


What also emerged in the second half against Panama was the versatility of Belgium's lineup. Striker Blas Perez is 37.

Gomez didn't completely dismiss Panama's chances of a surprise result against the Belgians, saying "anything can happen in football", but admitted it wouldn't be normal.

"We made the medical decision this morning that we are going to maintain the squad of 23 as announced", Martinez told reporters at Sochi's Fisht Stadium. "The way we play depends on our attitude as a team", he explained.

"The first half was a little bit slow".

The Napoli man's cross looking for Lukaku was headed out by Roman Torres and on by Fidel Escobar.

Panama could have equalised a few minutes later if goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had not won his duel at the 54th minute.

That proved to be Panama's best chance of claiming a draw and Belgium doubled its lead in the 69th minute after VAR ruled Lukaku was marginally onside.

With Panama forced to throw more bodies forward, they were punished on the break a quarter of an hour from the end. But Lukaku feels many Belgium supporters do not appreciate him and are unaware of the poverty he faced during childhood.

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