World Cup 2018: Belgium Team, Predicted Playing XI & Starting Lineup vs Panama
UPDATE: Belgium have announced their starting lineup.
Belgium XI vs Panama: Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Meunier, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco, Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard (C), Romelu Lukaku.
The 2018 World Cup now enters the final stages of the first round of group stage games and "dark horses" Belgium kick off their campaign in Russia against Panama. On paper, Belgium have one of the best squads at the World Cup.
However, they did have high hopes in 2014 before a quarter-final exit at the hands of Argentina saw their tournament come to a premature end. Belgium even managed to top the much-debated FIFA rankings in recent years so the onus is on them to impress and go far this time.
Unless you take into account what goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said prior to their first game. Although they are confident, they do not count themselves among the favourites.
"To call us big favourites I wouldn't do. We are outsiders but we have a chance to go far. We believe in that chance. We aren't going to say we are going to win or [are the] best team, but we have belief." - Courtois at the pre-match press conference
What he did also stress on was that it was no longer down to one individual such as Eden Hazard to lead the side to victory. The Red Devils have a very strong squad this time with more matured players from back to front such as Jan Vertonghen, Kevin De Bruyne, and Romelu Lukaku their biggest and most reliable stars.
How will Belgium line up against Panama?
Under coach Roberto Martinez, Belgium topped their qualification group with an exceptional attack where they won nine out of 10 games, drawing the other. Without a single loss, they also scored 43 goals, conceding only six.
Belgium will line up with a 3-4-3 formation. In goal is the ever-dependable giant frame of Thibaut Courtois. Both Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen are unfit and neither are expected to start this game.
Therefore, the three-man defence will see Dedryck Boyata flanked by Jan Vertonghen on the left and Toby Alderweireld on the right. The wing-backs employed will be Yannick Carrasco on the left and Thomas Meunier on the right.
The midfield will see Axel Witsel play in a conservative role while Kevin De Bruyne will be given license to go forward in attack. De Bruyne has evolved from a classic no.10 to a deep-lying playmaker at Manchester City and Martinez has done well to give him a similar role in the national setup as well.
The front three will see Eden Hazard on the left Dries Mertens on the right supporting the big man Romelu Lukaku up front. Michy Batshuayi has also had a decent season after his loan move to Borussia Dortmund but he will be the backup striker.
Belgium XI and Formation
Note: This article was updated after the starting lineup was announced.
What do you think the result will be? Let us know in the comments below.