Belgium favoured to open campaign with a victory

Belgium favoured to open campaign with a victory
Belgium captain Vincent Kompany

by Graeme Jackson

Monday Jun 18, 2018. 15:30

Belgium are favoured to open their 2018 World Cup campaign with a victory when they face debutants Panama in a Group G clash at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi on Monday, kick-off at 17h00 CAT.

Belgium come into the tournament as one of the ‘dark horses’ considered capable of challenging the outright favourites for the trophy, and their form in the warm-up to the tournament backs this up: a goalless draw with fellow heavyweights Portugal was followed by comfortable wins over Egypt and Costa Rica.

In fact, the ‘Red Devils’ are unbeaten in their last 18 matches, with their last defeat coming way back in September 2016 when they lost a friendly 1-0 against Spain.

Add in the fact that they call on outstanding players – including the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Kevin De Bruyne, Mousa Dembele, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku – and it becomes clear that Roberto Martinez’s side could be one of the best on show in Russia.

Panama, by contrast, did not impress in their warm-up programme, drawing 0-0 with Northern Ireland before losing 1-0 to Norway. That defeat was a third in their last five matches, including a 6-0 hammering at the hands of Switzerland back in March which underlines the suspicion that ‘Los Canaleros’ are one of the weakest teams in the tournament.

Nonetheless, coach Hernan Dario Gomez will look to the likes of goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, captain Felipe Baloy, midfielder Gabriel Gomez and forwards Blas Perez and Luis Tejada – who all boast over 100 caps for the national team – to use their vast experience and try stymie their more gifted opponents.

There is no previous history between the teams, as this clash will be their first-ever meeting.

Belgium v Panama – head-to-head

N/A – This will be their first meeting.

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