Panama vs. Belgium
|Date & Time||Monday June 18, 2018, 11:00 AM (EDT)|
The Line: Belgium -500 / Draw +609 / Panama +1873 -- Over/Under: 3
We have some Group G World Cup group stage action on Monday as Belgium takes on Panama from the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi.
Belgium comes into this World Cup as the #3 team in the World, behind only Germany and Brazil in FIFA’s world rankings. Belgium punched their ticket to Russia by finishing tops in Group H of UEFA qualifying, securing 28 of a possible 30 points, with 1 draw separating the Belgians from a perfect run throughout qualifying. Belgium will be looking to build on a solid 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where the team made it to the quarterfinals for the first time since finishing fourth in 1986. Thibault Courtois will be expected between the pipes for Belgium, while Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and co. will be expected to lock down the back line. Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Mousa Dembele and Marouane Fellaini will be expected to run Belgium’s midfield, while captain Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku will take charge up front.
Panama on the other hand had a much tougher road to Russia, finishing 3rd in “the Hex” also known as the final stage of CONCACAF qualifying, finishing with the same record as Honduras but avoiding the play-offs thanks to a better goal differential and punching their ticket to the World Cup. Jaime Penedo will be the starting goalkeeper, and will look to help Panama break out of a funk that’s seen the team drop full points in 6 of their last 7 matches. Roman Torres and team captain Felipe Baloy will be expected to keep things tight at the back for Panama, while Gabriel Gomez will anchor the Panama midfield. Blas Perez, Gabriel Torres and Luis Tejada will all be expected to shoulder the load in terms of attacking for Los Canaleros in the group stage.
This will be the first head-to-head meeting between Panama and Belgium.
Heavy plus money is always tempting, considering it just takes one bounce for the ball to end up in the back of the net. However, Belgium are unbeaten in their last 19 matches, and while it may not be top-tier competition that the Belgians are beating, Panama is having troubles competing with above average opposition, as seen in a 6-0 loss to Switzerland and a 1-0 loss to Norway in their most recent outing. Belgium has a lot to prove in this tournament and I think they start with a massive statement win so I’ll back Belgium with a -1.5 handicap here.