Tue 19 Jun 2018, 12:12
Three Lions roar in their opener as Red Devils banish Panama.
Group G favourites Belgium and England sent signals of intent in Monday’s action, though the Red Devils were far more convincing than Gareth Southgate’s men.
Kane and able: England find a way
For all of England’s slick interplay, especially in the first half, it was their talismanic striker Harry Kane who found the back of the net with two goals from set pieces. Southgate has been frank in his assessment of England’s chances at this World Cup, preferring to downplay the Three Lions’ chances of winning the tournament. Southgate has an effective system and he has some talented young players at his disposal, but it’s clear that Kane will be crucial to England’s hopes of progressing deep into the tournament.
Areas to improve
Unlike many top teams, England come out of matchday 1 with three points. That said, they will need to do better at both ends of the pitch to trouble better teams. Bar Kane, England’s attacking-minded players were indecisive in the final third. Jesse Lingard troubled Tunisia in the right-sided channel and Raheem Sterling’s pacey approach proved a handful, yet neither could execute a clinical pass or shot. Meanwhile, it was always going to be a risk to play Kyle Walker, a full-back by nature, in central defence, and he was caught out due to poor positioning and a lack of awareness, which resulted in Tunisia’s penalty and equaliser.
Belgium fire a warning shot
The Belgian bench was a sight to behold in their opening match of the World Cup. Despite counting the likes of Eden Hazard, Thomas Vermaelen, Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini, and Adnan Januzaj as substitutes, the Europeans cruised to a 3-0 win over a hapless Panama outfit. Dries Mertens opened the scoring with a sensational volley off the outside of his right boot before a rampaging Romelu Lukaku grabbed a brace. The striker opened his account with a header, getting on the end of Kevin De Bruyne’s cross after he scythed through Panama’s defence. Lukaku’s second came through a nifty lofted shot to seal the three points for the Belgians. This is clearly a team that means business.
Belgium face Tunisia in matchday 2 while England take on Panama. As it stands, wins for the Red Devils and Three Lions will ensure passage into the last 16, with the matchday 3 encounter between them effectively a winner-takes-all fixture to determine who tops Group G.
Catch eight-minute highlights packages of both England and Belgium’s wins on Catch Up. And remember to stream today’s action on SuperSport on DStv Now on your mobile, tablet or your laptop while you're on the go. Read more here.