Lukaku strikes twice as Belgium beat Panama

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

Romelu Lukaku netted a brace as a much-improved second-half performance gave Belgium an ultimately comfortable 3-0 victory over tournament debutants Panama in their World Cup opener in Sochi on Monday.Belgium's forward Romelu Lukaku prays at the end of the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Belgium and Panama at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi on June 18, 2018.

Belgium's second half onslaught against Panama means they top Group G after one game, largely as expected.

"It is a result that can't be positive because we lost 3-0 but they could have won by a landslide", Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez told a news conference.

Martinez's golden generation have been tipped as potential champions, but Belgium - beaten by Wales in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals - will likely need to improve on an often-underwhelming performance when they face stronger opposition. And in a world seemingly engulfed in resentment, it is reassuring to see two such talented individuals remove themselves from the pressure of the situation and remember who helped guide them in their career.

De Bruyne and Lukaku were quiet in the first half, but when they finally linked up in the 69th minute, it was of lethal outcome to Panama. That included a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Switzerland and a 1-0 reverse in Norway 10 days ago.

- Each of the last 11 goals that Belgium have scored in World Cup matches have come after half-time.

The two nations have never previously met, meaning that regardless of the outcome and quality of the encounter, Monday's game will go down as a historic match. The power and movement of Lukaku will cause problems, and the two centre halves must hold firm against the Manchester United number nine.

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

He then doubled his tally when he cheekily dinked the ball over Penedo, for Belgium's third.

A 3-4-2-1 system has proved effective, providing an ideal balance between defensive resolve and attacking potential.

Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel sit at the heart of the midfield four, providing an effective mix of flair, creativity, dynamism and steel. This encounter can bring serious momentum on their side. Hazard had been subject to an injury scare ahead of the start of the tournament, but those concerns have since been played down by Martinez, and the Chelsea winger will surely start as captain of the side on Monday.

The Belgians start as favourites against a Panama team which was recently disrupted by a foot injury to winger Alberto Quintero.

The central American giants managed to stifle Belgium's creative talents throughout the entirety of the first half, clearly frustrating Roberto Martinez' side in the process, but when the ball dropped for the Napoli striker, they had no answer for it.

Our recommended way to watch the Belgium vs Panama game online live streaming without cable is via Hulu Live TV.

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