Belgium get their 2018 World Cup campaign under way at the Fisht Stadium on Monday with a game against tournament newcomers Panama in Group G.
Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils booked their place in Russia by topping their qualification group – going unbeaten in the process – and a lot is expected of a panel of players considered to be a ‘golden generation’.
They have ostensibly tougher games against England and Tunisia to come but, as potential challengers, they will be keen to hit the ground running, regardless of the stature of their opening opponents.
Los Canaleros, on the other hand, are considered highly unlikely to make an impact in Russia, but the competition has already thrown up some upsets and they will be hoping to add to the list.
|Game||Belgium vs Panama|
|Date||Monday, June 18|
|Time||4pm BST / 11am ET|
|Stream (US only)||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch
In the United States (US), the game can be watched live and on-demand with fuboTV (7-day free trial).
New users can sign up for a free seven-day trial of the live sports streaming service, which can be accessed via iOS, Android, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV as well as on a web browser.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|FS1 / Telemundo||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
In the United Kingdom (UK), the game can be watched live on TV on BBC One or streamed live online using the BBC iPlayer.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
|BBC One||BBC iPlayer|
Squads & Team News
|Goalkeepers||Courtois, Mignolet, Casteels|
|Defenders||Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Kompany, Vertonghen, Meunier, Boyata, Dendoncker|
|Midfielders||De Bruyne, Witsel, Fellaini, Carrasco, T. Hazard, Tielemans, Dembele, Chadli|
|Forwards||E. Hazard, Lukaku, Batshuayi, Mertens, Januzaj|
Roberto Martinez made the bold decision to cut Radja Nainggolan from his final World Cup squad, but the former Everton boss has plenty of options to choose from in midfield nonetheless.
There are concerns in defence, however, with injuries threatening the involvement of Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen. Eden Hazard will captain the team, which is likely to line up with an attacking a 3-4-3 formation.
Potential Belgium XI: Courtois; Vertonghen, Boyata, Alderweireld; Meunier, Carrasco, De Bruyne, Witsel; Mertens, Hazard, Lukaku.
|Goalkeepers||Penedo, Calderon, A. Rodriguez|
|Defenders||Murillo, Cummings, Escobar, R. Torres, Machado, Davis, Ovalle, Baloy|
|Midfielders||G. Gomez, Barcenas, Cooper, Pimentel, Avila, Godoy, J. Rodriguez|
|Forwards||Perez, G. Torres, Diaz, Arroyo, Tejada|
Panama do not boast any players who could be considered household names, but they do have a cohort of stars plying their trades in Major League Soccer.
They will look to the likes of Seattle Sounders defender Roman Torres and Huachipato forward Gabriel Torres for inspiration.
Potential Panama XI: Penedo; R. Torres, Murillo, Davis, Escobar; G. Gomez, Cooper, Godoy, Barcenas, J. Rodriguez; G. Torres
Betting & Match Odds
As expected, Belgium are heavy favourites to win, with dabblebet offering odds of 1/6 on Martinez’s side. Panama are deemed to be an 18/1 bet and a draw is more likely at 13/2.
Click here to see all of dabblebet’s offers for the game, including goalscoring markets, correct score predictions and more.
Panama have been handed a tough assignment in their first ever World Cup, with Belgium sure to provide the Central American side with a baptism of fire in Russia, but coach Hernan Dario Gomez is determined to ensure that his team emerge from the experience with their pride intact.
“Quite frankly, we are delighted to be here, representing Panama at the World Cup. We feel very proud,” Gomez told the pre-game news conference. “We’ve prepared very well. We can all dream. We have the biggest dream of all. But the most important thing is to be able to get back to Panama with our heads held high.”
Along with the likes of Brazil, Spain and Germany, Belgium are among a handful of teams considered to be serious contenders for the title and, with a clutch of world-class players in their squad, such as Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens, the expectation is that they have what it takes to deliver glory.
However, despite the tag of contenders, coach Martinez is taking nothing for granted and is aware of how big an occasion the game is for the Panama players, who will no doubt raise their game in the face of such a stern challenge on the world stage, as well as his own charges.
“You cannot plan how the game is going to go. I expect a strong Panama side, looking forward to this opportunity. It’s a one-off. I’m very aware that this is a big occasion for them,” Martinez told reporters. “We don’t want to get affected by the occasion. We have to try to perform well. You have to find a way to win.”