Panama Should Struggle with Belgium in World Cup Debut
Belgium vs. Panama, 11 a.m. ET Monday, Fox Sports 1
- Belgium -565
- Panama +2070
- Draw +670
Bet to Watch
Belgium over 2.5 goals +109
On paper, Belgium vs. Panama is a massive mismatch. Of all the opening fixtures in the World Cup, Belgium are the biggest favorite in a single match, and for good reason.
Belgium breezed through UEFA qualifications, which is no easy task, even in a relatively weak group, and they averaged a whopping 4.3 goals per game across 10 qualifiers.
The Belgians are deploying a unique 3-4-2-1 system under Roberto Martinez. They have unlimited offensive potential with Kevin De Bruyne pulling the strings from deep to set up the likes of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens. There are very few teams in the tournament that can boast the offensive firepower that Belgium possess, and they have proven over the past two years that they plan to fire full throttle and try to bury their opponents. In the lead-up to the tournament, they played a Costa Rica team that is far superior to Panama, and the Red Devils absolutely picked them apart.
Panama punched their ticket to Russia on a fluke final day in CONCACAF qualifying. A certain team that shall not be named was a massive favorite to go through, but they lost to Trinidad and Tobago and allowed Panama to finish third. CONCACAF isn’t the gauntlet that UEFA or CONMEBOL are, and yet Panama finished with a negative goal differential during the qualification process. Thus, most people lumped Panama into the bottom tier of teams at the tournament, along with Saudi Arabia. The Green Falcons fell to Russia 5-0 in the opener, and I think we’ll see a similar result here.
Los Canaleros rely on a compact defense to get results, and while that may work against the likes of El Salvador or Jamaica, this is a completely different animal. The last time Panama faced a team that was on the same level as Belgium was in the 2016 Copa America, when they fell 5-0 to Argentina and 4-2 to the eventual champions Chile.
Look for goal-scoring chances to come early and often for Belgium, and if the recent friendlies are any indication, they are in prime form to convert said chances.