A great defensive performance by Panama in the first half and then individual brilliance from Belgium in the second. We have seen some great defensive performances in this World Cup. Panama successfully closed down the Belgian superstars during the first 45 minutes. They were everywhere on the field, closing down every inch. Eden Hazard was Belgium’s best player in the first half, but his shots were either saved by the great keeper Penedo or they weren’t on target.
Panama’s captain Roman Torres made a mistake that could cost his team in the beginning of the match but Hazard was imprecise. After that, Torres was a real commander of the defense by winning almost every duel.
Panama’s first half is just another proof that the whole world plays football now. Even though it was a debut for the Panama players, they looked very organized at the back. And don’t forget that one of their best players – Quintero, got injured just before the beginning of the World Cup. Blas Perez, a player that had his international debut back in 2001, led Panama’s attack but couldn’t do much. The majority of the players were concentrated on defending and they did really well.
Belgium should be a lot sharper in the attacking actions and maybe add another midfielder in their first 11 in a similar game. That way, De Bruyne would be more concentrated in the attack. They already have guys like Tottenham’s Dembele and Monaco’s Tielemans on the bench.
However, everything changed as soon as the second half began. 2 minutes into the second half Dries Mertens scored a screamer. It really took something special to break down Panama’s defense. We’ve seen so many beautiful goals these days and the Napoli forward added another one.
Panama’s coach was brave and substituted in two strikers after that goal – Gabriel Torres and Diaz. But it was the right back, Murillo who had the best chance for Panama in the game. In the 54th minute Carrasco left some space behind and Murillo had a 1 on 1 chance but Courtois made a great save.
After that it was all about Belgium. De Bruyne started having more of the ball and took the control of the game. In the 69th minute he found Lukaku in the box and the Manchester United striker headed the ball into the net. He was so clinical in front of the goal in the second half. After the second goal Panama couldn’t do much and seemed tired. Lukaku then got another goal to set the final score and Belgium slowly finished the game.
Belgium didn’t play a perfect match like almost all the favorites but their strikers got the job done. The second half was much better for them, the Mertens goal being decisive. Their next game is versus Tunisia and then they will probably seal their qualification into the round of 16.
Courtois; Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen; Meunier, Witsel (Chadli), De Bruyne, Carrasco; Mertens (T. Hazard), Hazard, Lukaku.
Penedo; Murillo, R. Torres, Escobar, Davis; Gomez, Barcenas (G. Torres), Cooper, Godoy, Rodriguez (Diaz); Perez (Tejada).