Unlike other World Cup favorites that struggled with their opening matches so far in Russia, Belgium and England looked every part the title contenders. A shaky first-half performance by Belgium was replaced by a confident, attacking group in the second that was finally able to find gaps in Panama’s defence and convert their chances into goals.
Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, and Dries Mertens combined beautifully to send their fans Cheering with Mertens volley just two minutes into the second half past Panama’s keeper Jaime Penedo.
having finally taken the lead, the men in red found their rhythm and the space in which to express themselves, with Lukaku getting in on the act. After opening his account with a header from a superb De Bruyne cross, he coolly clipped the ball home following a penetrating Hazard run. At last Belgium could breathe easy, their World Cup campaign safely underway.
In the last game of the day also from group G, England striker Harry Kane’s stoppage-time header ensured England started their World Cup campaign with a victory after Tunisia threatened to snatch a point in Volgograd.
Despite a difficult start to the first half and conceding early on, Tunisia did not give up and tried to get back into the game. England were clearly the dominant side and played better football, but the Tunisians managed to level up from the spot. After half-time, the pace of the game dropped and Tunisia defended better than in the first half, a lot of credit for which goes to striker Fakhreddine Ben Youssef’s selfless defensive work up front. However, the team missed out on the draw right at the end.
Tunisia dug in to frustrate England in the second half but Kane was the match-winner with a late header from Harry Maguire’s flick, justice being done after referee Wilmar Roldan and the video assistant referee (VAR) had failed to spot him clearly being wrestled to the ground twice in the penalty area.