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Roberto Martinez Lauds Mature Belgium Performance as Red Devils Overcome Dogged Panama

19 June 2018

The Central Americans played their style - physical, aggressive, sometimes looking more like wrestling than soccer - and managed to hang with the Red Devils for more than an hour.

Sweden and South Korea meet in a World Cup for the first time on Monday when they begin their campaigns in Russian Federation. No matter what outside observers believed, this wasn't a cakewalk for Belgium. We know what to expect.

"I think Eden is in a great moment of his career, look at his age, he is the captain, in terms of leadership - he never finds it hard to show for the ball", said Martinez on the eve of the game.

"In the first half we started well for 10 to 15 minutes but they defended well with their defensive structure and we became a little frustrated in some situations where we would normally take a chance".

"To call us big favourites I wouldn't do. Our way of playing depends a lot on our attitude and I really liked the attitude and commitment of my team in a game where you have nothing to win".

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Courtois and Belgium head into Monday's Group G opener against debutants Panama full of confidence as they boast the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.

Belgium impressed in an unbeaten qualifying campaign, becoming the first European nation to book a place at Russian Federation 2018.

Dries Mertens had opened the scoring two minutes after the half-time break before a brace from Romelu Lukaku secured a comprehensive win. "However, we grew during the match".

The Belgians put their slow start behind them in the second half as their passing game started to click, but Panama still managed to find opportunities for counter-attacks and were unlucky not to score.

Manchester City stopper Kompany will also miss next Saturday's match against Tunisia in Moscow.

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Trump had earlier warned that any countries voting against the North American bid would suffer consequences in trade deals. The report left the US-Canada-Mexico bid as the clear front-runner after giving it a rating of four out of five.

Belgium was drawn into a group that appeared relatively easy.

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The Korean team relies on Tottenham forward Son Heung-min and hopes for a strong performance from 6-foot-6 striker Kim Shin-wook, who is nicknamed "Chinook" after the Boeing tandem-rotor helicopter.

When the ball was between a Panama and Belgium player, the Panama player won the duel.

Germany's surprise loss to Mexico could create a unusual situation in Group G where England and Belgium may face a theoretically easier path to the last four if they finish second rather than first in the standings.

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Germany must bounce back from an opening day defeat after being beaten by Mexico . Brazil have won 17 of their 22 matches since Tite took over as coach in 2016.

"Everyone at home wants England to win", Southgate said, "but they want to see them play well and enjoy their football and that's what I want as a coach".

Roberto Martinez Lauds Mature Belgium Performance as Red Devils Overcome Dogged Panama