— FIFA World Cup 🏆 (@FIFAWorldCup) June 18, 2018
World No. 3 Belgium started their World Cup campaign with a 3-0 victory over newcomers Panama. Dries Mertens opened the account with a goal early in the second half, after a goalless first 45 minutes, before Romelu Lukaku scored two in six minutes for the European side.
Panama, 55th in the rankings, had a chance to snatch an equaliser but Thibaut Courtois was quick off his line to save Michael Murillo’s shot with his legs.
Manchester United striker Lukaku made certain of the victory as he scored with a diving header after an exquisite pass from Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne with the outside of his boot.
Lukaku then added a third with a chipped finish after a fine through ball from Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
Belgium take on Tunisia in their second match on Saturday, 23 June (13:00 BST), before Panama are England’s second opponents a day later (13:00 BST).
Gareth Southgate’s side play their first game of the tournament later on Monday against Tunisia in Volgograd (19:00 BST).
Belgium are now unbeaten in their last 10 World Cup group games (won five, drew five), winning each of their last five.
Each of the last 11 goals that Belgium have scored in World Cup matches have come after half-time.
Panama were given five yellow cards in this match – the last time that a team were given more in a single World Cup game was in the 2010 final (Netherlands – seven).
Overall, there were eight yellow cards in this match between Belgium and Panama – the most of any game at the 2018 World Cup so far and also more than in any single game at the 2014 tournament.
Belgium have won all 13 international matches that Dries Mertens has scored in.
Dries Mertens became the first Belgian player to score in two successive World Cup tournaments since Marc Wilmots (1998 and 2002).
It took 49 minutes and 10 seconds for Belgian playmaker Kevin De Bruyne to make his first successful pass in the match to teammate and striker Romelu Lukaku. His second pass (68:11) assisted a goal for Lukaku.
Only Jan Ceulemans (six) has scored more goals in major tournaments (World Cup & European Championships) for Belgium than Romelu Lukaku (five – level with Marc Wilmots).
Eden Hazard has been directly involved in 16 goals in his last 15 appearances for Belgium (eight goals, eight assists).