Dries Mertens scores screamer for Belgium against Panama

Belgium's forward Dries Mertens celebrates his goal against Panama at the World Cup

The game was marked by 35 fouls and eight yellow cards, five for Panama and three for Belgium but neither side could be accused of dirty play and Gomez said England could expect more of the same in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday.

But a minute into the second Dries Mertens broke the deadlock for Belgium in style, looping a superb volley from the edge of the area over the head of Jaime Penedo and into the back of the net.

As for Panama, they will need to up their game when they take on England and Tunisia.

The Manchester United striker made it 3-0 in the 75th, latching on to a through pass from Hazard and chipping over Penedo. His players bring solid global experience as well, with the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil and UEFA EURO 2016 under their belts, and they now hope to reach a whole new level in Russian Federation.

Panama has forged a reputation in CONCACAF for being defensively solid and opportunistic in attack.

Dries Mertens scored the opening goal for Belgium against Panama
Dries Mertens scored the opening goal for Belgium against Panama

The Pharaohs lost their opening game 1-0 to Uruguay but the return of the Liverpool winger will make a huge difference. Panama got caught trying to dribble its way out of trouble in its own half far too often, resulting in some transition opportunities that went unpunished.

Belgium and Panama will meet for the for the first time in their history. The heat and humidity here in southern Russian Federation could help them against Belgium, but their recent record is a source of concern, particularly in front of goal.

That proved to be Panama's best chance of claiming a draw and Belgium doubled their lead in the 69th minute after VAR ruled Lukaku was marginally onside. Panama fans everywhere belted out the anthem with unabashed joy, as if they had discovered a new favorite song. On paper, the battle between the two teams is a complete mismatch but if the tournament's first few days are anything to go by, it is safe to say that no team can be written off in advance.

When you have a roster as star-studded as Belgium's, it's tempting to think that against an overmatched opponent everything should be easy.

The likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku will line up for the Red Devils though there is no place for influential defenders Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany who are both missing through injury. Lukaku's physical gifts are obvious as he simply overpowered Erick Davis to score his first goal, then showed a deft touch to notch his second. Hazard was a menace throughout much of the match and his assist for Lukaku's second was perfectly timed. The players couldn't help but notice. "We showed in this game that we can live at his level". He also has a history now of popping up in World Cup openers: Four years ago, he scored the victor in a 2-1 triumph over Algeria.

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