Belgium vs Panama
Belgium looked extremely well in the qualifying process. They had an amazing run of nine victories and a draw, being one of the first nations to clinch the qulifications. Only draw came at home against Greek national team.
They finished the qualifying process with a 4:0 victory against Cyprus and finished the competition with nine points more than second placed Greece. The team is in a more than fine momentum, having their previous defeat only back in September 2016 in a friendly against Spain.
As for the friendlies, they had a draw to Mexico and victory over Japan late in previous year. During March the side won against Saudi Arabia 4:0. Meanwhile their most recent games were a draw against Portugal and 3:0 victory over Egypt and a 4:1 victory over Costa Rica. That game against Costa Ricans was their last rehearsal as the opponents probably were tested as a similar opponent to today's one.
Even though Costa Rica took the lead via Ruiz in 24th minute, it didn't last long till Belgium showed their great potential. In the end, goals from Mertens, Batshuayi and two from Lukaku were enough to show the difference. Needs to be said, final result could have easily been even bigger in favor of the Europeans.
Hazard, Lukaku and Mertens should lead the attack of the Belgium side in a version of 3-4-3 formation. Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen are both doubtful for them for now. That's not much of a problem since they are expected to heavily attack in this one.
Players of Panama were lucky to secure the qualification for the World Cup in the last qualifying round last year. Even though their home game against Costa Rica didn't start well as Venegas brought the guests into the lead in 36th minute - they reacted better in second. Torres was goalscorer of both goals in the second part for very important victory.
Thanks to other results, Panama ended up third at the table and reached the Russia 2018 directly even though their record was only 3-4-3. In the end they had only one point more than fifth placed USA that stood without further chances.
As for the friendlies, the side had defeats to Denmark and Switzerland in Match without scoring a goal. During April they have won over Trinidad & Tobago 1:0, while their next preparation matches didn't bring many positive things. They had a goalless draw against Northern Ireland and a narrow 1:0 defeat away against Norway couple of weeks ago.
Torres should lead their attack in a version of 5-4-1 formation. They should have quite defensive approach for this one. Offensive Roman Torres is having slight knock but should be fine to start.
- Belgium have won 9 of their last 10 matches (FIFA World Cup), scoring at least two goals in each of these.
I'm quite sure Belgium will do everything to show their full potential already in the first game. Especially in offensive way. Panama are hoping to make an upset here, but will surely struggle a lot. Their preparations haven't been ideal and I can't see them staying very competitive against the Red Devils here.
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Belgium vs Panama prediction
Belgium -2 Asian handicap @ 2.10 with Pinnacle