Belgium head into their World Cup Group G opener against minnows Panama hoping to make a statement of intent to justify their tag as one of the favourites to lift the trophy in Russia.
The Panamians, meanwhile, are making their maiden appearance at the tournament proper and will be aiming to give a good account of themselves by avoiding a heavy defeat on the global stage.
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez is a man under pressure, despite losing only one match in charge of the national team since his tenure began in 2016.
With a squad comprised of some of the world’s most talented players, the Spaniard has a huge task on his hands succeeding where his predecessors have failed.
The Red Devils aced their qualifying group, winning all but one of their 10 matches to top the pile with 28 points, nine more than runners-up Greece.
Fast-paced, attacking football has been the driving force behind their success, and the Belgians netted a whopping 43 goals on the road to Russia, more than any other European nation.
Martinez has world-class quality at his disposal across the pitch, from Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois in goal to Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku up front.
Former Everton man Lukaku was in solid form during qualifying, racking up 11 goals in 10 matches, while Chelsea’s Eden Hazard was also a key figure, providing six goals and five assists.
Belgium have maintained their unbeaten run in their World Cup warm-up fixtures, winning four out of six friendly matches and conceding just one in their last five games.
They head into the match against Panama off the back of a 4-1 demolition of Costa Rica, who came through the same CONCACAF qualifying group as the Red Devils’ Group G opponents.
Panama have been dubbed the weakest team in the tournament on paper and are thus tipped to end up on the wrong side of a heavy defeat against the Belgians.
Their greatest strength is arguably their manager Hernan Gomez, who is the only member of their camp with prior World Cup experience, having coached Colombia and Ecuador at the finals in 1998 and 2002, respectively.
Los Canaleros have already defied the odds by qualifying for Russia, booking their place there at the expense of the United States in dramatic fashion.
The CONCACAF qualifying zone went down to the wire, with Gomez’s men producing an 87th-minute winner to defeat Costa Rica, while the US lost to Trinidad & Tobago, to secure their spot in the finals.
The World Cup debutantes have played eight friendlies since qualifying and won only two of those.
Goals have been a problem for the Central Americans, as they have netted just one in their last five international outings, which include a 1-0 loss to Norway, a goalless draw with Northern Ireland and a 6-0 clobbering at the hands of Switzerland.
Panama were dealt a major setback while preparing for Russia when their star player, winger Alberto Quintero, was ruled out of the tournament through injury, forcing Gomez to call up KAA Gent’s Ricardo Avila in his place.
Without Quintero, any result beyond a heavy defeat would be considered a feat against the Belgians.
Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany is likely to be benched for Belgium’s opener due to concerns over his fitness, with Laurent Ciman of Los Angeles FC touted as a possible replacement at centre-back.
Michy Batshuayi is also an injury concern for Martinez and may be left out of the squad entirely.
The Red Devils are expected to line up in a 3-4-2-1 formation, with Lukaku operating as a lone striker with support from Hazard and Napoli’s Dries Mertens.
Meanwhile, Panama may be forced to gamble on the fitness of centre-back Roman Torres, due to a lack of viable replacements, while Avila is likely to be handed a key midfield role.
Gomez has a selection headache up front, with both Gabriel Torres and veteran Blas Perez pushing for a start in their attack.
Monday 18 June 2018
|Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)||Jose Calderon (Chorrillo FC)|
|Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)||Jaime Penedo (Dinamo Bucharest)|
|Koen Casteels (VfL Wolfsburg)||Alex Rodriguez (San Francisco FC)|
|Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham)||Felipe Baloy (CSD Municipal)|
|Dedryck Boyata (Celtic)||Harold Cummings (San Jose Earthquakes)|
|Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)||Eric Davis (DAC Dunajska Streda)|
|Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)||Fidel Escobar (New York Red Bulls)|
|Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona)||Adolfo Machado (Houston Dynamo)|
|Thomas Meunier (PSG)||Michael Murillo (New York Red Bulls)|
|Luis Ovalle (CD Olimpia)|
|Roman Torres (Seattle Sounders)|
|Youri Tielemans (AS Monaco)||Edgar Barcenas (Cafetaleros de Tapachula)|
|Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian)||Armando Cooper (Club Universidad de Chile)|
|Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)||Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes)|
|Mousa Dembele (Tottenham)||Gabriel Gómez (Bucaramanga)|
|Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht)||Valentin Pimentel (Plaza Amador)|
|Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)||Alberto Quintero (Universitario de Lima)|
|Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach)||Jose Luis Rodriguez (KAA Gent)|
|Dries Mertens (Napoli)|
|Nacer Chadli (West Brom)|
|Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea)||Abdiel Arroyo (LD Alajuelense)|
|Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)||Ismael Diaz (Deportivo La Coruna)|
|Eden Hazard (Chelsea)||Blas Perez (CSD Municipal)|
|Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad)||Luis Tejada (Sports Boys)|
|Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang)||Gabriel Torres (CD Huachipato)|
Head To Head
This will be the first time that Belgium and Panama have played against each other.
Belgium vs Panama USA, UK, Pak and Indian Time of FIFA World Cup 2018
Monday 18 June 2018: According to Standard Time, Belgium vs Panama match will start at 16:00 PM UK, 20:00 PM Pakistan, 18:00 PM Russia, 20:30 PM India and 11:00 AM USA sharp. The dominance of Belgium will definitely create history here.
|Competition||FIFA World Cup 2018|
Monday 18 June 2018
|Time||16:00 PM UK, 20:00 PM Pakistan, 18:00 PM Russia, 20:30 PM India and 11:00 AM USA|
|Venue||Fisht Olympic Stadium|
|Seating capacity||47,659 (Official); 45,000 (2018 FIFA World Cup); 40,000 (after 2018 FIFA World Cup) – Cost = 779 million USD|
Track Record of Both Teams – Win, lose:
Peru vs Denmark Match Predictions:
Predictions: Belgium-4 vs Panama-2
As per our assumption, Belgium will win the match by the scintillating win, match would be interesting to watch, both teams are ranked low in FIFA World Cup 2018 latest rankings, it would matter a lot if Panama comes back strongly and attack their opposition.