Panama held on longer than expected in the country’s World Cup debut but, when all was said and done, Belgium was too much to handle for the CONCACAF side.
Romelu Lukaku provided a brace while Dries Mertens scored a stunning volley, leading Belgium in a 3-0 route in their group stage opener.
Following a frustrating first half, Belgium finally broke through in spectacular fashion just moments into the second. With the ball behind headed around in the box, Mertens popped up with a ridiculous volley, curling a shot to the back post and in for Belgium’s long-awaited breakthrough.
Lukaku then iced the game for Belgium with his 37th career goal for his national team. Belgium’s all-time leading goalscorer scored in the 69th minute and, while the goal was checked for an offside call, Lukaku’s finish of a magnificent Kevin de Bruyne stood and all but ended Panama’s hopes.
In the 75th minute, Lukaku added Belgium’s third, scoring on a breakaway on an assist from Eden Hazard.
Panama defended well throughout the first half, limiting Belgian chances throughout. Jaime Penedo was forced into two solid saves with his best stop of the first 45 coming on a shot from Dries Mertens.
In the attacking end, Panama was perhaps more active than many expected. The CONCACAF side did come out of their shell several times, working well enough on the counter despite not mustering a clear chance.
The second half, though, played out as many expected as Belgium poured it on once they found their attacking flow.
Next up for Belgium is a match against Tunisia while Panama will search for their first World Cup point as underdogs yet again when they take on England.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Romelu Lukaku iced the game with his two goals in the second half as the Manchester United forward looked like a legitimate force as the game wore on.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
After defending so well through the first 45, Panama was undone just moments into the second half, shifting the momentum of the match.
MATCH TO FORGET
Nerves were apparent for Roman Torres, who nearly committed an early back pass blunder while getting burned on Lukaku’s second goal.