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WORLD CUP 2018: Belgium second-half masterclass destroys Panama

Belgium delivered a cruel welcome to World Cup debutants Panama as the Red Devils coasted to a 3-0 victory in Sochi.

The surprise packets of Brazil 2014, Belgium showed off their attacking prowess early with plenty of free-flowing football and the lion's share of possession.

Some early chances looked sharp but the plucky Central Americans held firm and kept themselves from being overwhelmed.

Throughout the first half Belgium were the more efficient side with the ball, Panama remaining largely quiet through the opening stages.

Panama's few possessions were snuffed out before a serious attack could be threatened, as Belgium's strong backline kept them from even putting a ball into the penalty area.

Panama may not have been as strong on the ball, but their structure and composure off the ball was enough to keep Belgium at bay. The European heavyweights were slightly frustrated with their failure to convert heading into the half time break.

At the start of the second half, Belgium picked up exactly where they left off in the first and scored a goal within minutes.

Dries Mertens found himself with ample time and space to lob an audacious volley into the opposite bottom corner of the net. Easily one of the goals of the tournament.

Panama weren't going away easily, Murillo almost nabbed a goal against the run of play as he latched onto a beautifully weighted pass for a close range effort but was spectacularly denied by Thibaut Courtois.

Despite Panama's best albeit few efforts, Belgium began to run away with it as De Bruyne showed his quality with a beautifully weighted cross to the noggin of Lukaku to casually nod it home for Belgium's second.

Lukaku was once again at the finish for Belgium's third. A beautiful sweeping move started by Witsel was fed on by Hazard. Lukaku timed his run perfectly to latch onto the through ball for a tidy finish.

As the game pushed on into the dying minutes, it seemed impossible to take the ball away from the Belgians, whose composure and class was simply sublime throughout the 90 minutes.

The game took a physical turn in the final minutes, but did little to deter the Belgians from securing a comfortable first victory in Group G, while Panama endured a forgettable debut.

WORLD CUP - GROUP G

Belgium - 3 (Mertens 47', Lukaku 69', 75')

Panama - 0

Fisht Stadium, Sochi - 43,257

About the author

Chris Sermeno

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