Romelu Lukaku with a brace. Thibaut Courtois with a clean-sheet. Ultimately, Belgium hardly had to break sweat as they emerged Three-Zero winners in opposition to World Cup debutant Panama. However a match is a sum of its elements, and the efficiency would have raised a few questions in Belgium coach Roberto Martinez’s head, resembling why his star-studded Pink Devils aspect failed to break open a resolute Panama defence.
Listed below are three observations from the Group G encounter.
A game of two halves
Belgium began with a Three-Four-Three formation with captain Eden Hazard and Napoli ahead Dries Mertens enjoying help to Lukaku in the entrance. Kevin De Bruyne partnered Alex Witsel in central midfield, whereas Yannick Carrasco and Thomas Meunier occupied the left and proper wings respectively. Whereas on paper this seemed like a formidable, attack-minded set-up, the execution wasn’t at its fluidic greatest, particularly in the primary half. Belgium’s ‘Golden Era’ struggled to break down the wall of Panama defenders and received more and more pissed off because the half progressed.
The Pink Devils have been a modified aspect in the second half although, enjoying with better intent and taking an early lead by a beautiful purpose by Mertens. The purpose was adopted by a interval of dominance the place the Belgium aspect lastly seemed just like the title favourites that they have been billed as forward of the event. An out of doors-of-the-boot cross from De Bruyne discovered Lukaku with area in the field and the Manchester United striker made it 2-Zero, earlier than working onto a by ball by Hazard to give Belgium a three-goal benefit.
Not like Germany in their match in opposition to Mexico, Belgium did not look a aspect disadvantaged of motivation. The golden technology of footballers in all probability perceive that that is their one greatest shot at soccer’s most coveted prize, and so they definitely put on a present when there was a want. The Reds had sufficient firepower to ease previous Panama however more durable challenges nonetheless stay for the Pink Devils. Apparently, every of the Belgium’s final 11 objectives in the World Cup have come after half-time, suggesting a lethargy at the beginning of the game.
What’s plan B?
In opposition to Panama, Belgium didn’t have to use a Plan B nevertheless it nonetheless stays a doubt if Martinez has a contingency plan in place for more durable conditions. The aspect relies on the trio of Hazard (one help in the match), Lukaku (two objectives) and De Bruyne (one help), and an damage to any might show tough for Martinez. The group performed the Three-Four-Three formation — one thing Martinez has used since his membership days at Wigan Athletic and Everton FC — all through the qualifiers, so one is not clear if Martinez has the tactical skill to tweak the group if being overpowered in the midfield.
The three-Four-Three technique was historically utilized by a weaker group to comprise its opposition till the likes of Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri tweaked the system to make it simpler. The three-Four-Three nonetheless stays a defensive strategy although, and whereas it helps Martinez to embody the likes of Carrasco in the group, it would nonetheless be hampering the group’s attacking capabilities. A change to a Three-5-2 formation is probably going in opposition to more durable opponents, however with Radja Nainggolan not in the squad, discovering the suitable participant to praise each De Bruyne and Witsel will probably be a powerful process.
Equally in defence, the three-man backline was custom-made for the skilled trio of Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Vincent Kompany. However Manchester Metropolis defender Kompany is at present nursing an damage which has resulted in Dedryck Boyata beginning in the central sweeper/libero position. The Celtic defender is not a participant of the identical mould as Kompany and might be the chink in the Belgian armour, particularly if opponents resort to direct soccer. The defending talents of makeshift wing-backs (each Carrasco and Nicer Chadli) will even come underneath scrutiny when Belgium go up in opposition to high quality oppositions.
A historic debut for Panama
For the tiny nation with a inhabitants of 40 lakh, reaching the World Cup itself a dream come true. Although the followers didn’t get to see their group rating a purpose, Panama confirmed promise, particularly in the primary half. The group stretched the Belgian defence on a number of events and it was Courtois’ well timed interventions that saved the North Individuals at bay.
The Los Canaleros are in the event with modest ambitions — be taught from the soccer mega-event, and make a little bit of historical past resembling scoring a purpose or retaining a clean-sheet. England may be too sturdy a aspect for the upcoming footballing nation, however Panama will fancy nicking a level out of Tunisia in their closing match in Group G.