As it happened: A Mertens wondergoal and a Lukaku brace defeats the Panama history makers
Will Eden Hazard be the main man this afternoon?

As it happened: A Mertens wondergoal and a Lukaku brace defeats the Panama history makers

Tom Simmonds
BelgiumBelgium: (3-4-2-1) Courtois, Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen, Meunier, De Bruyne, Witsel (Chadli, 89'), Carrasco (Dembele 75'), Mertens (Hazard 82'), R. Lukaku, E. Hazard (c).
PanamaPanama: (4-5-1) Penedo, Murillo, R. Torres (c), Escobar, Davis, Gomez, Barcenas (Torres, 62'), Cooper, Godoy, Rodriguez (Diaz, 62'), Perez (Tejada 73').
SCORE1-0, Mertens 47'. 2-0, Lukaku 69'. 3-0, Lukaku 75'.
REFEREEJanny Sikazwe (ZAM). Booked: Meunier (min. 14), Davis (min. 18), Barcenas (min. 45+1), Cooper (min. 48), Murillo (min. 50), Godoy (min. 57), Vertonghen (min. 59), De Bruyne (min. 90)
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That's all from me, John Lupo will have the report shortly. But now our attention turns to England's opening game against Tunisia, which you can follow live here. I've been Tom Simmonds and I thank you all for joining us!

Three excellent goals rescue an extremely poor first half from Belgium. Ultimately it is job done for Belgium but they certainly have a large amount of work to do on the training pitch before they face Tunisia, the lethargic energy around the side has to be fixed as better sides will punish them. For Panama, though the historic day ends in disappointment. But they can take confidence in that it took three excellent goals to defeat them. They are certainly the weakest side in Group G, but if they keep playing like that they may feel as though they could nick a result when they play Tunisia. 

FULL TIME: Belgium 3-0 Panama

90+2: Panama have an effort from the half-way line that almost catches out Courtois but the whistle had already gone as Panama had a player down injured. 

90+1: Belgium haven't stopped playing yet, they are still looking to carve out chances, but Panama are still fighting for some honour.

90: Four minutes of added time to be played.

89: A final change for Belgium as Witsel is taken off and he's replaced by West Brom's Nacer Chadli. 

88: Escobar drills the resulting free kick in low towards goal, but it is a comfortable save for Courtois.

87: De Bruyne becomes the latest player to join the evergrowing list of players in the referee's book. His high footed challenged judged to have been dangerous by Janny Sikazwe. 

84: All Panama's hard work in the first half is catching up with them now, the legs are going now for the Panama players. A tight, and wrong, offside call cuts short a Panama attack but the ball was already in Courtois' grasp anyway,

82: The second change for Belgium as Eden Hazard is joined on the pitch by his brother Thorgan Hazard, Mertens makes way for him.

81: Here's a free kick in a dangerous position for Belgium. But Hazard's effort is deflected wide.

80: Another chance for Belgium but Mertens is ruled to be in an offside position.

78: What a cross from Tejada, but it's agonisingly out of reach of the Panama strikers.

77: A chance for Belgium's fourth but Hazard is on his one and he's eventually crowded out by the Panama defence.

75: Belgium break with Hazard, he knows Lukaku is with him and plays the Belgian striker in who chips the charging Penedo.


73: Moussa Dembele is introduced for Belgium as Carrasco makes way.

72: A final change for Panama as Blas Perez is replaced by Panama's leading goalscorer Luis Tejada

71: Excellent football from Panama. They pass and move expertly but the final ball loops harmlessly into Courtois' arms. 

69: It's perfect from De Bruyne as he finally shows his class, a perfect outside of the boot ball picks out Lukaku with inch-perfect precision and his header finds the back of the net with ease. The goal stands!

GOAL! It's a second for Belgium and a first of this World Cup for Lukaku, but there is a VAR referral for offside.

67: There's still a very lethargic nature to this game, Panama are sitting deep, Belgium are playing with no real urgency and fouls are stopping any real moves building.

64: Frustration is showing among the Panama players, the fouls are consistent now and it's stopping the game developing any real rhythm. The free kick is struck straight at the wall though, De Bruyne's delivery hasn't been at the high level we expect from him today.

62: A comfortable save for Penedo as Vertonghen heads tamely towards goal. Gomez now rings the changes for Panama, Ismael Diaz replaces Rodriguez and Gabriel Torres also comes on with Barcenas going off. 

60: Lukaku creates a yard of space in the box and plays the one-two but the pass is slightly behind him and his touch lets him down. 

59: Vertonghen becomes the seventh player to be booked by the referee, the cards are really beginning to rack up.

58: Barcenas is picked out expertly by Godoy, but his shot is off balance and goes wide of Courtois' goal.

57: Godoy goes into the book for his protests to the referee. 

56: Free kick for Belgium as Escobar is punished for holding Lukaku, an unnecessary foul it has to be said.

54: ALMOST DREAMLAND FOR PANAMA. Carrasco loses Murillo at the far post but Courtois smothers the shot and it's out for a corner. Torres rises highest from the corner but he can only guide his header wide.

52: CLOSE! That goal has really given Belgium life, De Bruyne's free kick is just wide, I don't think Penedo had that covered in truth. 

50: Murillo becomes the latest player to be booked for Panama.

49: There's a new found urgency to both sides, Escobar brings down Lukaku on the halfway line and in sincredibly lucky to escape going into the referee's book.

47: Mertens initial cross is cleared back to him and he volleys it first time over Penedo and into the top far corner. Belgium finally are in gear!


46: We pick up where we left the first half, Belgium win a free kick and De Bruyne's delivery is poor.

45: Belgium get us underway again. There are no changes from either manager at half-time.

The players are coming back out for the second half, here we go! Can Belgium break the deadlock? 

Panama were always going to a very defensive side and were going to make Belgium work to break them down. But this has been an abject display from Belgium. There is no energy to their side, they are looking extremely cautious and are living up to their tag as a team full of individuals. Take nothing away from Panama, they've been composed with the ball, Penedo has been on top form in goal and the Panama defence is clearly very well drilled. 

HALF TIME: Belgium 0-0 Panama

45+1: Barcenas goes into the referee's book for a challenge that'd be more at home at the Rugby World Cup than here in Russia.

45: Two minutes will be added on.

44: If Belgium can tidy up their final ball they could be four goals up by now, but at the moment it just seems lazy from the European side.

43: Perez's runs are starting to be a slight threat for Belgium but the ball into him is overhit.

42: It's tidy and patient from Panama. A good sequence of passes eventually gives Cooper the space to hit one from the edge of the box. His speculative effort is watched over by Courtois however. 

41: Belgium win a free kick and the delivery from De Bruyne is inch perfect to Mertens, but his shot is woeful.

40: Great save from Penedo! He rushes out to prevent the Mertens' ball from ever reaching Lukaku, very smart goalkeeping from the Panama keeper.

38: A needless touch grants Panama their second World Cup corner, but after Perez heads the delivery back across goal, Torres' effort is easily gathered by Courtois.

37: CHANCE! Belgium keep getting closer as Hazard bursts into the Panama box, but Penedo is down well to stop his effort from reaching the back of the net. 

36: Lukaku is adjudged to have fouled Torres in the box, a very harsh call it should be said, but yet again Belgium are failing to make their possession count.

35: The corner is poor though, as is the Belgian counter-attack and the ball is eventually safe in the hands of Penedo.

34: PANAMA HAVE A CORNER! Some seriously shoddy defending from Belgium allows Rodriguez to get the ball inside the 18-yard box, but his ball across is cut out.

31: Belgium win a corner as Vertonghen's long ball towards Lukaku is headed clear, but Gomez clears the corner with ease from the front post. 

29: The corner comes to nothing however as Murillo heads clear. 

27: Murillo brings down Hazard to prevent the Belgian forward getting away from him on the edge of the box. De Bruyne took the free kick, but the wall does its job and puts the ball behind for a corner.

24: Top draw defending from Escobar, Belgium had counter attacked the Belgians, but it's an excellent sliding challenger from him to prevent Belgium from making anything out of the attack. 

23: Panama are slowly building into this game, they're starting to knock the ball around a bit more, but they've shown nothing so far to suggest they can really hurt this Belgian side.

21: SO CLOSE FOR BELGIUM! De Bruyne whips a low ball into the box and it's on its way into Lukaku's feet, but Torres gets a crucial touch to put the ball behind. De Bruyne has an effort from the edge of the box from the corner but it's way over.

18: CHANCE! Panama switch off from the corner and it's taken quickly into Mertens. The Belgian attacker lashes his effort goalbound but it's only good enough for the side-netting. 

18: Davis goes into the book for a late challenge on Meunier.

17: Slow building from the back from Panama, but the move the suddenly came to life as Barcenas burst into the box, but the referee judged his tussle with Vertonghen to be over the line and the Belgians get a free kick. 

14: YELLOW CARD for Meunier. The PSG defender battles in the air with Rodriguez and the referee judges him to be overly aggressive. He can feel more than a little bit hard done by there. 

13: Panama get their first ball into the Belgium box but it's tidied up rather easily by Toby Alderweireld.

11: HUGE CHANCE for Belgium. Panama hero Roman Torres makes a horrific mistake and he underhits a back pass to Penedo. Hazard managed to nip in and intercept but his effort can only find the side netting. It's a big let off for Panama.

9: Panama are sitting deep now, inviting Belgium onto them. The final ball is letting Belgium down, however. 

8: Mertens goes down in the box after contact with the Panama defence, the referee refuses to listen to his protest. In truth, Mertens can possibly consider himself lucky to escape without a yellow for simulation.

7: Belgium are piling on the pressure now, Mertens shot is well saved by Penedo.

6: The ball from Meunier is well dummied by Eden Hazard who lets it run to Carrasco, but his shot is straight at Penedo.

5: A patient move from Belgium eventually comes to nothing as a long crossfield ball runs out for a throw.

3: Panama win a free kick outside the left-hand side of the box as Cooper is fouled by Boyata. Davis' cross is easily cleared by De Bruyne though.

1: Lukaku blazes his first chance over the ball after meeting Carrasco's cross, he's convinced it's a corner, but the referee is unmoved.

0: Panama get us underway!

The Panama flags are waving, the fans are making their voices heard and the anthem is ringing around the stadium. What a moment this is for the Panama players, fans and everyone involved in this monumental achievement. 

The players are making their way out of the tunnel, the anthems are coming soon. We are now just a few minutes away from kick-off here at Sochi.

Whilst it may seem like a straightforward opening game for Belgium, there is a lot of weight on their shoulders. Having been dubbed their nation's "golden generation", this group of stars have to start performing at major tournaments to avoid these opportunities going to waste. 

It was always going to be a tough opener for Panama, but a look into history details just how monumental their challenge is. Since 1986 Belgium are undefeated against CONCACAF opponents, they've played 11 matches, recording nine wins and two draws. Panama, meanwhile, have not tasted victory in nine matches against European opposition. 

Teenage prodigy, Jose Luis Rodriguez, limped out of Panama's training sessions a few days ago, but he has trained since and the 19-year-old winger has obviously done enough to prove his fitness, he starts today. 

There had been some concern over Eden Hazard's fitness, however, Roberto Martinez had been confident that the Chelsea winger would be fit. He starts and also captains the Red Devils in today's game. 

Panama: (4-5-1) Penedo, Murillo, R. Torres (c), Escobar, Davis, Gomez, Barcenas, Cooper, Godoy, Rodriguez, Perez.

Belgium: (3-4-2-1) Courtois, Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen, Meunier, De Bruyne, Witsel, Carrasco, Mertens, R. Lukaku, E. Hazard (c).

Early team news suggests that Celtic's Dedryck Boyata will be the man to replace Vincent Kompany in the Belgian defence.

Team news is expected soon, but ahead of that, I can tell you who will be in charge in the middle. Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe will take charge and he will be assisted by Jerson Dos Santos and Zakhele Siwela. Away from the game, in Moscow, it will be Bastien Dankert who oversees any VAR decisions.

Team news will come an hour before kick-off but in the meantime, if you want to join in with the World Cup debate over on Twitter, make sure you follow us @VAVEL.

On the other hand, Panama have struggled for form ahead of this World Cup. In their five most recent matches, the Central American side have won just once and have lost three. They have struggled to find the net, scoring just once in their five games whilst the defence has leaked goals. However, their defensive 5-4-1 formation is likely to make them a tricky side to break down. 

Belgium come into this World Cup in red-hot form, they are unbeaten since their Euro 2016 quarter-final defeat. They were the first European side to book their place at this World Cup and their most recent display was a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Costa Rica with Lukaku, Dries Mertens and Michy Batshuayi finding the net.  

The defence is equally strong with the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Vincent Kompany providing the options at centre back. The defence can also be confident that even if they are beaten, they can rely on shot-stopper Thibaut Courtois to keep the goals out. 

Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku will be the one expected to provide the goals, and he can expect to be well supported with creative talents such as Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard supporting him in the attack. 

Whilst Panama may be a relative unknown, Belgium is the polar opposite. The European side is packed full of Premier League talent. Belgium will be hoping that this side of stars will finally gel together as a team, with their individuality having cost them in recent tournaments. 

Despite being new to World Cup football, this is a Panama team with plenty of experience. Midfielder, Gabriel Gomez, has made 143 appearances for the national side and is Panama's most capped player in history. They have an experienced staff too, they are managed by Hernan Dario Gomez. He, whilst controversial, is one of just four managers to have guided three different teams to a World Cup. 

It's going to be a historic, and surely emotional, moment for Panamanian football. This is their first appearance at a World Cup and their most notable achievement since they finished as runners-up in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2013.

This is the opening game in Group G and there's plenty to keep a look out for from an England fan's perspective. Belgium are expected to be England's biggest challenge in this group and it will be intriguing to see how the shape up in today's game. 

Hello and welcome to VAVEL UK's live coverage of the second game of today's World Cup action as Belgium face Panama at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi. I'm Tom Simmonds and I'll be with you throughout this Group G game.