Published: Tue, June 19, 2018
Sports | By Sarah Myers

Martinez delighted with Belgian start as Lukaku sinks Panama

Martinez delighted with Belgian start as Lukaku sinks Panama

Individual brilliance broke Panama's resistance on Monday but for Belgium coach Roberto Martinez the 3-0 win was a victory for a new sense of team solidarity as his squad of precocious talents eyes World Cup glory.

Despite this stellar line-up, a combination of excellent goalkeeping by Panama gloveman Jaime Penedo and scrambled defense by The Canal Men's backline saw Belgium end the first half of their opener against the Central Americans in a goalless fug.

The 25-year-old stole the show with his two-goal haul for Belgium against Panama in their World Cup clash yesterday.

Three points were little more than Gareth Southgate's side deserved even if they laboured to break Tunisia down in the second-half.

The debutants endured a shaky start as Lukaku went close for Belgium in the opening minute after an incisive pass from De Bruyne set Yannick Carrasco free down the left, but the striker fired wide.

The Belgians came to Russia's Black Sea coast early from their base near Moscow to adapt to the warmer, and more humid, conditions here that could suit the Panamanians better.

Belgium wasted no time in the second period as Mertens quickly opened the scoring and as the underdogs started to chase an equaliser the space opened up.

"12 years later I was playing in a World Cup, and now another".

"I was very happy with the commitment of every single player", he said. Hazard found Kevin De Bruyne, and his sumptuous cross with the outside of the right boot was headed in by Lukaku. With defensive pillars Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen out injured, he said he expected to deploy to a four-man line in future games in Russian Federation.

"If you weren't with me when I had nothing, then you can't really understand me", he said.

"Now we have got players that are very important at club level and what we want to do is bring them together in the national team".

Panama head coach Hernan Dario Gomez felt his side could be proud of their efforts in what was the country's first ever game at a World Cup.

"I think we know how strong we are and I hope we can show it in this tournament", said the Napoli forward Dries Mertens, who along with his teammates trained in the shadow of the Sochi stadium on Saturday.

Belgium have been handed a massive boost to their World Cup chances, after star defenders Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany are both believed to be in line to return from their respective injuries in time to face England on 28th June.

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