Vincent Kompany Belgium
Vincent Kompany will miss the match against Panama through injuryBruno Fahy/AFP/Getty Images

Belgium might have been termed as the dark horses in previous major tournaments, but with their golden generation now quite matured, they can't hide behind the "talented, but not experienced enough" cloak anymore.

Going by their squad, they are rightly one of the teams capable of clinching the Fifa World Cup 2018 title, and just how good they can be will be known, starting with their opening match against Panama on Monday.

Having seen most of the other pre-tournament favourites falter in their opening matches, Belgium will know they cannot take three points for granted against World Cup debutants Panama.

Roberto Martinez has a strong squad to choose his starting XI from, but he will know, whichever team he decides to put out, it won't be easy to break down a Panama side that will just want to enjoy being on the World Cup stage for the first time in their history.

If there is one team you want to bank on to find the goals against a deep defence, however, Belgium are that side, considering they have gifted players like Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and the physical presence of Romelu Lukaku.

The key for Belgium will be getting a strong start, because the longer the game goes, the more likely Panama are to gain confidence and with it strike at what could be a vulnerable Belgium defence owing to several injuries.

Team news:


Martinez cannot call upon the services of Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany for this opening Group G game of the Fifa World Cup 2018, with the two centre-backs out through injury. Kompany has a groin problem and will not be risked, while Vermaelen has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Martinez, however, looks confident the two will recover quickly enough, with the standby defender Laurent Ciman sent home, after initially travelling with the squad.

For this game, however, the Belgium manager will need to call upon the services of Dedryck Boyata, who is expected to partner the Tottenham pair of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld in a back three.

There was a bit of a scare for Belgium when one of their main men Hazard limped off with an ankle problem in their final friendly before the World Cup, but the Chelsea man is expected to be fine for this fixture.


The World Cup debutants suffered a blow in the lead-up to this game when Alberto Quintero, one of their key players, was ruled out of the entire tournament after breaking a bone in his foot.

Skipper Roman Torres was a doubt with a hamstring problem, but the defender is expected to feature against Belgium.

Confirmed starting XI:

Belgium: Thibaut Courtois; Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Jan Vertonghen; Thomas Meunier, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco; Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard; Romelu Lukaku.

Panama: Jaime Penedo; Roman Torres, Fidel Escobar, Eric Davis, Michael Murillo; Gabriel Gomez, Anibal Godoy, Armando Cooper, Edgar Barcenas, Jose Rodriguez; Blas Perez.