Belgium broke the game against Panama 3-0

Dries Martens scores for Belgium
Belgium broke the game against Panama 3-0
Frustrated in the first half, Belgium broke the game open in the second and ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over Panama in Sochi on Monday.
It was clear from the outset that Belgium, stocked with players from top European clubs, was superior to Panama, which is playing in the World Cup for the first time. The chances came fast for Belgium, but with striker Romelu Lukaku tightly marked, the finishing touch was not there, at least initially.

But in the 48th minute, a goal finally came. A rebound came out to Dries Mertens, and he one-timed it straight into the net.
Little went right for Panama after that. First Kevin De Bruyne and then Eden Hazard found Lukaku in the area for the goals that made it 3-0.
In the end Belgium had 15 shots to Panama’s 6 and a 9-3 edge in corners. The margins were even bigger before Panama started gambling late, desperate for any kind of score. When Panama did get something on net, Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois was steady and secure.

Belgium became the first of the World Cup favorites to put in a truly dominating performance after comparative failures by Germany, Brazil and Argentina. This generation of talent has threatened a deep run at several recent major tournaments. Panama was not the sternest challenge, but the signs are there that this may be the year.

Here’s how Belgium beat Panama, 3-0:

  • 89’: Yellow for De Bruyne

  • Kevin De Bruyne went for a high kick and his boot found the stomach of Barcenas. A yellow for the Belgian midfield star, which could come back to haunt him in the tournament. Two yellows before the semifinals earns a one-game suspension.
  • 86’: Belgium Lives Up to Hype

  • Belgium becomes the first of the favorites to really put in a dominating performance at the Cup. France did not. Argentina and Brazil drew against weaker opposition, and Germany lost. Spain and Portugal put on a great show, but that game ended in a draw as well.
  • 83’: Panama Losing Grip

  • At this point, Panama may well be looking to avoid the kind of late goal bonanza that left Saudi Arabia a 5-0 loser. Belgium has had no shortage of opportunites here.
  • 76’: GOAL! 3-0.

  • Belgium broke forward, a racing Hazard found an equally fleet Lukaku and he slotted it home. Blowout.
  • Andrew Das: I guess we have our answer about Belgium’s inevitability and Panama’s stamina. Lukaku vs. Torres was the day’s heavyweight fight, and there’s your knockout.
  • 75’: Belgium’s Spurs

  • Dembele checks in, giving Tottenham three men on the field along with Toby Alderweireld and Vertonghen.
  • 73’: Panama Look Beaten

  • Panama is in a world of trouble now, but they managed to fire off a lobbed shot that the tall Courtois gathered. Getting 2 goals in 20 minutes looks virtually impossible for Panama barring a Belgium meltdown of some sort.
  • 69’: GOAL! Belgium 2-0

The way it was supposed to happen in this game. Belgium whips it around the penalty area, De Bruyne kicks it to Lukaku, who puts it in with a diving header.
  • 68’: Belgium Keeping Possession

  • Belgium passed the ball for several minutes all around the Panama half. It’s going to be tough for Panama to score if they can’t even touch it.
  • 63’: Another Corner for Belgium

  • Header off a corner by Jan Vertonghen, which is easily taken by Panama keeper Penedo.
  • 62’: Panama Plays Long Ball — to No Avail

  • Yannick Carrasco of Belgium was tripped up, giving the ball to Panama. Their offensive tactic was to hoof the ball miles upfield. Maybe that’s their best bet against Belgium, but it’s no dice this time.
  • 59’: Barcenas Threatens for Panama

  • A through ball found a charging Barcenas, who, though surrounded by several Belgians, got a shot off. It was wide, but that was a little dicey for Belgium.
  • 56’: Panama Tries to Counter

  • Because Belgium is pressing for a second goal, Panama gets a strong counter opportunity, but Courtois handles the rush. Panama’s corner was headed well wide by Torres.
  • 52’: De Bruyne Misses on Free Kick

After Panama’s Michael Murillo is booked for a foul on Yannick Carrasco, De Bruyne stands over the free kick, just outside the box. De Bruyne standing over a close-in free kick has to be a terrifying sight for Panama. D
But De Bruyne’s attempt went just too high and wide.
  • 48’: GOAL! Belgium

Belgium gets that goal. Once again the ball pinged around the area for Belgium and this time it came out straight to Dries Mertens. He one timed it from the edge of the penalty area straight into goal.
You get enough chances and usually one does turn into a goal. The play didn’t look more promising than many in this game, but this time the ball fell kindly to Mertens and this time his shot was true.
Andrew Das: Fantastic finish by Mertens out of nothing, picking that deflection out of the air and getting it up and down over the goalkeeper so effortlessly. He’s the Belgian you forget about — until he does something like that. And then you remember why they love him so at Napoli.
  • 46’: Belgium Looking for a Goal

The second half begins, with Belgium looking to find a way to put the pieces together, capitalize on its clear superiority and put the ball in the net.

Halftime: Panama Hangs Tough With Belgium, 0-0

Another first half at the World Cup without a goal. With a 9-3 lead in shots, Belgium dominated and is much more likely to break the deadlock in the last 45 minutes. This is a great result for Panama, who can’t hope to compete, offensively, with the Belgians.
Andrew Das: Belgium arrives at halftime having done everything it has wanted to do against Panama except score. Which, you’ll remember, is the whole point of this affair. Panama has leaned, dived, nudged and pushed its way though the first 45 minutes, which is what you do when you’re Panama and the other team has Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku et al running at you again and again. But 45 minutes is not 90, and it’s still hot, so doing at this level that for another 45 is going to a big ask.

  • 45’ + 1: Yellow for Barcenas

  • A yellow card for Panama’s Edgar Barcenas, who basically roped his opponent to the ground.
  • 43’: Panama Keeps the Ball

  • A rare sustained possession for Panama ended with Cooper sending it far over the goal. Panama looked like Belgium for just a moment there.
  • 41’: Mertens Shoots Wide

  • After Hazard is just a half step too slow to get a through ball, De Bruyne took another free kick. Mertens had a fairly clear chance at goal but his one-timer went wide.
  • 40’: Great Look for Hazard

Eden Hazard weaves in close and fires from point-blank range, but Panama’s goalkeeper, Jaime Penedo, is up to the task.

Panama has actually gotten a couple of corners in the last few minutes. Barcenas’s latest effort was hit too far and Courtois eventually grabbed it easily.
  • 37’: Panama Locking Down on Lukaku

  • A pass from Meunier to an open Lukaku by goal went a bit too far. Lukaku felt like he was pushed (or perhaps grabbed) from behind. Panama is doing everything it can to stifle him.
  • 32’: Belgium in Control

  • Belgium leads 7-1 in shots and 5-1 on corners. Of course, the 0-0 score matters much more.
  • Andrew Das: Belgium has slowed to a walk, but maybe they need a breather. It’s steamy in Russia today, 80 degrees in Moscow and almost that in Sochi for this one. You can see it on De Bruyne every time the cameras catch him; he looks like a little boy who’s been playing in the sun on a hot summer afternoon.
  • 29’: Belgium Corner Comes Up Short

  • De Bruyne again. Short corner this time. Nothing doing. Lukaku has been marked extremely tightly by Panama so far.
  • 28’: Hazard Goes Down. Free Kick

  • Hazard was fouled by Murillo and Belgium got a free kick just to the side of the penalty area. De Bruyne took it, and it was headed away. Another corner.
  • 24’: Panama Not Getting Many Shots

  • Panama get a decent opportunity on Belgium’s side, but an errant cross quickly ends the threat. Belgium’s counterattack looks more fearsome, but fizzles quickly as well.
  • 22’: De Bruyne Causing Trouble

  • Kevin De Bruyne stole the ball and sent it across the face of goal. It took a lunge by Torres to get Panama out of danger. Seconds later, on a corner from Hazard, De Bruyne rocketed a good chance over the bar.
  • 19’: Belgium Hits the Net Again

  • A corner to Belgium led to a blast by Mertens, but it went into the side netting.
  • 12’: Close Call for Belgium

  • More patient buildup for Belgium. A bad back pass by Panama’s Torres gave Hazard a shot at a tight angle, but he kicked it into the side net.
  • 8’: Belgium Firing Away

More Belgium passing led to Yannick Carrasco charging in on goal unmarked, but it went straight to the keeper. It’s all Belgium as Dries Mertens fires again at the keeper and then goes down in the box and appealed for a penalty. The ball is not getting out of Panama’s half.
  • 6’: Belgium Controls Panama Attack

Free kick for Panama near the sideline. Davis curled it in, but it was easily cleared. Belgium regained command, completed a dozen or more passes in the Panama half, but ended up kicking it away before getting a shot off.


Belgium is in red and Panama in white.

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