It didn’t start off very well but by the end of the match, Belgium were in fine fettle. Some lovely skill by all of their stars.
FT! Belgium 3-0 Panama
Superb second half by the Red Devils. Now this is what favourites play like. It was not an easy first half but the Belgians kept their composure. Mertens made the breakthrough with a wonder volley and then Lukaku scored a brace to give his side an easy win.
88’: A yellow for De Bruyne. Third yellow for the Red Devils.
83’: Mertens off, Thorgan Hazard (the younger brother of Eden) comes on.
75’: GOAAAALLL!!! Beautiful breakaway goal. Hazard with the run, Lukaku with the finish. Now, this is how favourites should play. Lukaku has now scored 9 goals in his last 9 competitive internationals for Belgium. This is a man in form. No Belgian has ever scores a World Cup hat-trick...
69’: De Bruyne, outside of the right boot, curled it onto Lukaku’s head. He had no mistake and buried the header into the net from close range. It is his 37th goal for Belgium... in just 70 games.
67’: Belgium have qualified for the second stage in six of their last 7 World Cup appearances. They are looking solid and in control now.
62’: Double change for Panama. Torres, a striker, comes Barcenas and Diaz, just 21, coming on for Rodriguez. They will need to throw caution to the winds now.
59’: Now Vertonghen gets a yellow. Seven cautions in total in this match.
56’: Godoy becomes the fifth Panama player to go into the referee’s book. He shouldn’t have to read the rule book to the ref. This isn’t going to end well. Too many cautions.
54’: Best chance of the half... of the game for Panama. Murillo got behind the Belgium defence but he was let down by his first touch. If he had controlled it well, he would have had a clear shot at goal with only Courtois to beat.
52’: Free kick in a dangerous position, just outside the D but De Bruyne sends it just wide. This was pretty close. Are Belgium going to run riot here now?
47’: GOAAAAL! Mertens puts Belgium ahead with a fabulous strike. It was impossible to stop. Six goals in his last 9 competitive international appearances for Mertens. Can Panama recover?
46’: And we are back on. This will be a test for both, Panama and Belgium.
HT: Belgium’s last loss in international football came in Euro 2016 when they lost to Wales 3-1 in the quarters. Since then, they have gone 19 matches without a loss.
45’: HT! What is it with favourites and this World Cup? Germany lost; Brazil and Argentina were held to draws and now Belgium hasn’t been able to score in the first half either but they have had some very good attempts. Panama will tire in the second half but can they, like some other teams in this World Cup, hold on.
40’: Penedo to the rescue again. Lukaku was onto a through ball but Penedo responded quickly and blocked it before he could do anything. Scores still level but Belgium getting into this more now. Five minutes left in the half.
37’: Lovely save by Penedo. Nice little burst of pace by Hazard and a good shot too. But not good enough to beat Penedo. Hazard has had three shots on goal already.
30’: Belgium are looking a little lost here. The pre-tournament favourites for many but they are not being able to make much headway. Panama, on the other hand, haven’t actually touched the ball in the Belgium penalty area so far.
26’: De Bruyne needs to get into this a bit more. He could be the guy to break down the resolute defence by the debutants. But he has been largely invisible so far.
21’: Last gasp tackle by Torres saves Panama. Lukaku was waiting, he would have had a simple tap in. So closeeee! Quick stat: Lukaku has had just 3 touches so far!
18’: Belgium have a corner and Eric Davis is show a yellow card for the challenge. Mertens with a silent run into the D and no one picked him up. But his shot goes into the side netting.
15’: Belgium dominating but the match seems to be settling down now. The initial nerves are history. Panama are finding their feet and seeing more of the ball now.
12’: Hazard almost made Panama captain Torres pay for a poor back pass. The keeper didn’t anticipate it and Hazard did. His shot hit the side netting.
10’: Belgium with a majority of the possession as expected. Senegal were the last World Cup side to make their debut in the tournament. Remember that famous win over France? Panama will need to go forward too.
6’: Panama will look to settle down, defend well and so far, they are doing it so far. Carrasco, in space on the left flank, but he squanders a good chance.
1’: Roberto Martinez has picked Boyata to replace Kompany, who is still not fit enough to play. Belgium will play a 3-4-2-1 as usual with Meunier and Carrasco on the wings.
20:27 pm: And we are all set to go. Will Belgium live up to their promise or will Panama through up another surprise?
20:20 pm: This the first meeting between the two teams. If you haven’t read Romelu Lukaku’s story on Player’s Tribune, have a read. It is surely worth your time.
Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany are left out as they continue to recover from the injuries they suffered before the tournament.
Belgium are fielding a 3-4-2-1 formation while Panama are going with a 4-1-4-1.
Belgium plundered seven goals between between them in the last two games. They played Egypt and Costa Rica leading up to this game.
Form guide: Barring their match against Trinidad and Tobago, Panama lost each one of their friendlies leading up to the World Cup. Switzerland trounced them 6-0
Hello and welcome to the live updates of the second match of day five of the World Cup. Panama become the 79th team to participate in what is widely believed to be the biggest sporting showpiece on earth.
Belgium is widely picked by many to reach the last-four of the tournament. They can’t be blamed as they have a glittering array of talent on show. Skipper Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku can be a terrorising front four four any defence to handle, leave alone Panama.
The central Americans, meanwhile, have plenty of experience in their lineup and are expected to field a 4-4-2. There is plenty of Major League Soccer experience in their squad, and have as many as six players who have earned more than 100 caps. This match can be pinned down as a battle between the aging Panama defence and the young, vibrant, and versatile Belgium attack. Can we see another upset today? Sochi is the venue.