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World Cup: Belgium thrashes Panama in 3-0 victory

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World Cup: Belgium thrashes Panama in 3-0 victory

World Cup: Belgium thrashes Panama in 3-0 victory
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REUTERS/Hannah McKay
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Belgium shook off first-half nerves to record a comfortable 3-0 victory over World Cup debutants Panama, in their opening group game.

They opened the scoring early on in the second half when Panama failed to clear a cross. The ball fell to Dries Mertens who powered in a volley past Penedo.

The Panama players were forced to give away a number of free-kicks, resulting in numerous yellow cards as they tried to stop the threat of Belgium.

Thibaut Courtois saved Michael Murillo's shot, after the Panama full-back had found space to pull a shot away. It was their only real chance of the game.

The Red Devils doubled their lead when Romelu Lukaku scored his 37th goal for Belgium, after heading in from Kevin De Bruyne's superb cross.

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

Fidel Escobar almost grabbed a goal back for Panama, but his free-kick was saved by Courtois.

Panama's Roman Torres almost gifted Belgium their opener as his under-hit pass fell to Eden Hazard, who could only hit the side netting from a tight angle.

Torres made amends when he made a goal-saving tackle to deny Romelu Lukaku.

Panama's only real chance was when Brandon Cooper blazed his shot over the bar, after a neat passage of play.

The Red Devils were in complete control but were lacking in the final third despite all the world-class players in their squad.

Here are five key takeaways from the match:

Passionate Panama fans

Fans who have travelled 7.6 thousand miles to be there cheered every single touch that a Panama player had. It's their first time in the World Cup and they were clearly enjoying it. They added the South American samba to the atmosphere and the stadium was full of colour as they showed off the Panama flag.

Mertens looks

With all the attacking options that Belgium had, it was Dries Mertens who had all the chances. He built up a good partnership with Kevin De Bruyne, who fed the Napoli frontman on a number of occasions.

Physical Panama

Panama picked up no fewer than five yellow cars as they tried to deal with the threat of Belgium. In doing so, they made a number of fouls. This was one of the hardest tests for Panama but they must be careful that discipline isn't a problem in their remaining group matches.

De Bruyne masterclass

Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne put on a performance that those in the Premier League have been accustomed to this season. His neat passing and his ability to find his teammates was a joy to watch for the spectators.

Lukaku shines

A brace for Romelu Lukaku, albeit against a tiring Panama side, highlighted how hungry he was to make an impact for Belgium. The man who has lead the line for The Red Devils, grabbed his 37th and 38th goal as he put them on their way to victory. Both goals highlighting his physical power as well as his technical ability.