World Cup 2018, Belgium 3-0 Panama: 3 key battles that decided the game
It took us 13 matches, but finally, a team that was expected to win big finally won big and showed no signs of cracking during the process. Belgium established their roles as the real dark horses of the tournament, as they comfortably beat Panama 3-0.
The first half looked like there was another upset on the cards, but the half-time speech from Martinez seemed to have done its magic. Three goals in the second half - a banger from Mertens, and two typical Lukaku goals with assistance from Hazard and De Bruyne were enough to take Belgium over the finish line.
As always, there were a few individual battles that went a long way in deciding the final outcome of the fixture. Here's a look at 3 of them:
#1 Eden Hazard vs Michael Murillo
On any other night, Murillo could have ended the game with his head held high on the basis of a world-class performance, but it was a pity that he had to come up against Eden Hazard at his menacing best.
A backheel pass to Lukaku early in the game was enough indication that it was gonna be one of those days from Hazard, and it turned out to be true. The Chelsea midfielder bobbed and weaved his way around a Panama defence that was clearly out of its depth, and barring Murillo, saw little birds fly around their heads.
Hazard was instrumental in both of Lukaku's goals. In the first, he was the one who held up the ball in the box between two defenders, before passing to De Bruyne who crossed the ball for Lukaku. For the second, Hazard and Lukaku used their superior pace to get away from the defenders, and Hazard released Lukaku at just the right time to set up the goal.
Murillo, despite looking like he was a rugby player at times, did everything a 22-year-old can to stop Hazard, but after a particular point, it just became impossible. The defender put in 3 successful tackles during the game and might be one of the players whose future gets significantly better after the WC.