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17 Jun 2018 by Rob Esteva

2018 FIFA World Cup – Belgium vs Panama Preview

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AT A GLANCE

When? Monday 18th June, 16:00

Where? Fisht Olympic Stadium

What channel is it on? BBC1

Where can I stream the match? BBC license holders can stream the match online via BBC iPlayer

Are tickets still available? https://www.ticketbisevents.com/en/group-g-belgium-panama-tunisia-england-tickets/ca5917

THE TEAM NEWS

BELGIUM

  • Despite being considered dark horses in recent tournaments, the pressure is on this talented Belgian team to produce at a major tournament which is arguably in the peak of its form with several world class performers in their ranks.
  • Vinent Kompany picked up another knock in the friendlies and he will almost certainly miss out with Boyata expected to deputise but that is the only issue within the team coming into this opening match as Eden Hazard is expected to overcome the dead leg he suffered in the last friendly.
  • Martinez appears to have settled on a 3-4-2-1 formation with Hazard, Mertens and De Bruyne pulling the strings behind Lukaku in an exciting attack and the only real weak link looks to be defensively on the left side where Carrasco could be exploited.

Predicted line-up (3-4-2-1):

Courtois

Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen

Meunier, De Bruyne, Witsel, Carrasco

Mertens, E. Hazard

R. Lukaku

Unavailable: None

Doubtful: Kompany, Batshuayi, Vermaelen, Eden Hazard

PANAMA

  • After narrowly missing out on the 2014 World Cup, Panama finished third in CONCACAF to reach their first ever World Cup final tournament so optimism is high and they are just pleased to be mixing it against the big boys.
  • The likelihood for this opening game is that Hernan Dario Gomez will give starts to the heroes that sealed qualification against Costa Rica but they were dealt a massive blow shortly before the World Cup with key creator Quintero being ruled out with a broken metatarsal
  • There is plenty of experience within the squad in terms of age and international caps, so work rate and savvy will not be lacking, although they have nowhere near the same quality that their opponents possess here.

Predicted line-up (4-4-1-1):

Penedo

Machado, Torres, Escobar, Ovalle

Barcenas, Gomez, Godoy, Rodriguez

Torres

Perez

Unavailable: Quintero

Doubtful: None

THE PREDICTION

There is a weight of expectation on Belgium now given that the bulk of their impressive array of talent is arguably at the peak of their careers. They will be desperate to start fast and one would expect them to wear this experienced but ageing Panama team down and kick off with a win. Panama will be valiant and show plenty of pride, so do not expect the Belgians to steamroller them, but they should overpower them and win this by a couple of goals.

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