It's big relief to score Belgium's first goal, says Mertens

Share

"I have not seen the German team so weak at a big tournament for a long time", said West Germany's 1990 World Cup-winning captain Lothar Matthaeus. Today's trio of wins for Sweden, Belgium and England ensured that, of the 13 matches they have been involved in thus far, teams from the Old Continent have lost just one. "Many people are going to cry".

Sweden won an opening World Cup game for the first time since 1958 and ended a worrying goal drought with a 1-0 victory over South Korea in a must-win match if they want to progress from a tricky-looking Group F.

England have won three of their last four matches and are unbeaten since June of previous year, when they lost to France in a friendly.

But Martinez - buoyed by Vincent Kompany's fitness though the injured skipper will miss Monday's clash - said: "We respect Panama".

"We are not favourites but if we have a good day, we could do something good", he said.

I feel especially over the last season, Hazard has become increasingly clever tactically - he knows where to move and drag his markers to open up space for his teammates. That trend includes the US team, which has only advanced to the knockout rounds in World Cups outside Europe (1930, 1994, 2002, 2010, 2014) but has never done so in Europe. In its next major tournament two years ago, Belgium was again ousted in the quarterfinals, this time by Wales in the 2016 European Championship.

Gomez, who is set to make his third World Cup appearance with a third country, highlighted Belgium's quality and their potential to challenge for silverware in Russian Federation. The Three Lions face Tunisia, while the Red Devils take on Panama.

More news: Afghan High Peace Council Calls On Taliban to Extend Ceasefire
More news: Border patrol chase ends in deadly crash, at least five killed
More news: Anti-Trump texts 'cast a cloud' over email probe — Federal Bureau of Investigation report

Eden Hazard hit the side-netting after pouncing on a loose backpass from Roman Torres, Panama's captain making amends with a terrific touch on a low De Bruyne right-wing cross that ensured Lukaku could not tap in at the back post.

The one lingering bit of news for Belgium is whether Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen will be healthy enough to play.

"Thomas Vermaelen has improved very well, a little bit like we expected", Martinez said of the Barcelona man, who has been out since the middle of last month with a hamstring problem.

Kompany's participation in the World Cup was put in doubt when he suffered a groin injury in his country's 0-0 friendly draw with Portugal at the start of June.

Perhaps a signal of the decision to come, Ciman was sent back to Belgium on Saturday to remain on standby.

Squad role: Belgium are blessed with some truly world class players and Kevin De Bruyne fits firmly into that category.

Share