The tournament third favourites Belgium get their World Cup campaign underway today against Central American minnows, Panama. The game will be held at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, the ground in which Cristiano Ronaldo nabbed a hat-trick against Spain on Friday night.
We saw both tournament favourites Brazil, and current champions Germany drop points yesterday. Therefore, Belgium will be looking to do everything they can to make sure they don’t suffer the same fate.
If Panama were to get anything from this game it would be nothing short of miraculous. A guaranteed moment of history for the small nation. The country will come to a standstill to watch all of their games, particularly this one. To put it into perspective, they declared a national holiday on the day they sealed qualification to the World Cup.
Belgium will be missing their two veteran defenders for the game tomorrow as Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen. Vermaelen is suffering from a hamstring problem while City stalwart is struggling with a groin problem.
Panama will still be reeling from the loss of winger Alberto Quintero as he was ruled out of the tournament with a fractured foot. On a brighter note, defender Roman Torres has been given the all clear after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Panama boss Hernan Gomez says that his side can take inspiration from Iceland’s performance against Argentina yesterday, a game which saw them nab a point. When asked if his side have any chance in today’s game he told media:
“I’m not ruling it out. Anything can happen. Look at Iceland and the extraordinary result they got against Argentina in what is their first World Cup.
“They also had a very good run at the last Euros We are certainly not favorites but on a good day, we can do something good.”
Meanwhile, Roberto Martinez says that Panama certainly won’t be a walkover:
“Panama knocked the USA out of the World Cup [qualification]. They believe they can achieve things that have never been achieved in Panamanian football before. They are aggressive and well-disciplined in their defensive duties, but they’ve got enough talent to attack and hurt you.”
I think if the Belgian side can click the way they did in qualification then Panama could be in for a long old afternoon. As Hernan Gomez said, if Panama can play the way Iceland did on Saturday and defend well, it could spell trouble for Martinez’s side.
Having said that, I think Belgium will have too much quality for Panama and run out comfortable winners.
I predict Belgium to win 3-0.