Watch the highlights of all the goals and key plays as Belgium routs Panama in their World Cup opener.

By Avi Creditor
June 18, 2018

Belgium gave Panama all it could handle and more in the latter's welcome to the World Cup stage.

Los Canaleros figured to be in for a tough debut against the star-studded Belgium side in Sochi, Russia, on Monday, and so it proved, with Dries Mertens scoring on a sensational volley, and Romelu Lukaku delivering a double in a 3-0 win to open Group G play.

Belgium is in the midst of a golden generation and is expected to make a deep run in this tournament, if not contend for the title, while Panama and its veteran generation experienced the spotlight of the World Cup for the first time. It wound up playing out like most expected, but it took a little while for the scoreline to develop.

Panama wasted no time in trying to shock Belgium from the start, hoofing a long ball from the opening kick toward Thibaut Courtois, who made the easy catch and sent Belgium going the other way. On its first foray forward, Belgium nearly carved out a scoring chance, with Lukaku receiving a cutback cross in the center of the box before missing wide on his first-time chance.

Yannick Carrasco forced the first save of the game after Eden Hazard dummied a cross, along the ball to meet Carrasco alone on the left. His low shot was saved easily by Jaime Penedo, though.

The Panama goalkeeper was called into action again in the seventh minute, with Mertens having a wide-open look parried to safety.

Panama nearly endured a self-inflicted wound, when center back stalwart Roman Torres played a risky back pass toward Penedo, which allowed Hazard to have a tight-angled shot that he put into the side netting in the 12th minute.

Torres was called into action in the 21st minute, making a sliding intervention to prevent a Kevin De Bruyne cross from making its way to Lukaku by the far post, as Belgium continued to press forward.

Belgium nearly struck in the 40th minute off a sensational set piece, with De Bruyne serving an alley-oop type free kick to the top of the box for an unmarked Mertens, whose first-time volley was hit just wide right of the post. 

Belgium earned its breakthough just after halftime. A cleared cross looped toward Mertens just inside the box, and uncorked a perfectly hit volley to beat Penedo and give the Red Devils a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute.

Panama had a couple of half-chances to pull even, and it appeared to be holding Belgium at bay–that is, until the favorites doubled their lead in the 69th minute. De Bruyne hit a sumptuous assist off the outside of this foot, finding a diving Romelu Lukaku for a point-blank header that made it 2-0.

Lukaku scored his second minutes later, finishing off a clinical counterattack with a perfect touch to chip Penedo from a left-sided angle, making it 3-0 in the 75th minute.


Here were the lineups for both teams:


Here are the rosters for both sides:

BELGIUM

Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona)

Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Nacer Chadli (West Brom), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Thomas Meunier (Paris Saint-Germain), Youri Tielemans (Monaco), Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian)

Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Borussia Dortmund), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Dries Mertens (Napoli)

Manager: Roberto Martinez

PANAMA

Goalkeepers: Jose Calderon (Chorrillo), Jaime Penedo (Dinamo Bucarest), Alex Rodriguez (San Francisco)

Defenders: Felipe Baloy (Municipal), Harold Cummings (San Jose Earthquakes), Erick Davis (Dunajska Streda), Fidel Escobar (New York Red Bulls), Adolfo Machado (Houston Dynamo), Michael Amir Murillo (New York Red Bulls), Luis Ovalle (Olimpia), Roman Torres (Seattle Sounders)

Midfielders: Edgar Barcenas (Tapachula), Armando Cooper (Universidad de Chile), Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes), Gabriel Gomez (Atletico Bucaramanga), Valentin Pimentel (Plaza Amador), Alberto Quintero (Universitaro), Jose Luis Rodriguez (Gent)

Forwards: Abdiel Arroyo (Alajuelense), Ismael Diaz (Deportivo Fabril), Blas Perez (Municipal), Luis Tejada (Sport Boys), Gabriel Torres (Huachipato)

Manager: Hernan Dario Gomez

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