Belgium vs Panama: Red Devils to flex their muscles
Belgium vs Panama Match Preview and Predictions
Belgium's star-studded squad will be keen to finally fulfil their potential at a major tournament.
With a so-called 'golden generation', the Red Devils will fancy their chances of bettering their fourth-placed finish at the 1986 World Cup.
But despite boasting the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne in their squad, Belgium crashed out of the last World Cup and Euro 2016 in the quarter-finals under previous coach Marc Wilmots.
Roberto Martinez was brought in to turn around their fortunes and the former Wigan and Everton boss led his side through qualifying unbeaten, suggesting they could have what it takes to go all the way in Russia.
Minnows Panama are entering unknown territory after reaching the World Cup finals for the first time in their history.
Belgium vs Panama Betting Tips
A strike department including Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens and Michy Batshuayi are expected to benefit from De Bruyne and Hazard's brilliance in Russia.
Understandably, Belgium are free scorers and have netted three or more goals on 12 occasions since their surprise exit to Wales at Euro 2016.
Martinez's side blasted 43 goals in 10 qualifiers, including nine wins and a draw, as they finished nine points clear of Greece in Group H.
Not only were Belgium the joint top scorers with Germany but they also top the expected goals table of all 32 nations with 2.33xG per 90 minutes since 2017.
Martinez's side are just 2/11 to see off the debutants but Belgium to win both halves at 27/20 gets the nod in the first of our Belgium vs Panama betting tips.
Belgium achieved just that in recent friendlies against Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Costa Rica, teams of a similar standard to Panama in the FIFA world rankings.
First goalscorer tips
Lukaku is a Golden Boot contender after scoring 11 goals in qualifying, five more than his nearest rival Hazard, and his conversion rate of 32% makes him one of the most clinical strikers around.
The Manchester United forward has opened the scoring in three of his side's last five friendlies and with Belgium the best side at creating chances from crosses (25%), Lukaku looks the man to be on the receiving end to break the deadlock at 12/5.
Anytime goalscorer tips
Hazard and Mertens scored six and five goals respectively in qualifying and are priced at 5/4 and 8/5 to score anytime against Panama, but instead we prefer the look of Thomas Meunier at 5/1.
The PSG defender will be playing in a right wing-back role with a licence to get forward against the lesser teams. Having scored four goals for the French champions last season and with a conversion rate of 67% for Belgium since 2017, he is the kind of player to take his chance in what could be a high-scoring game.
Where the game will be won or lost
Belgium have scored four goals in four of their last eight matches but they are not just an attacking force; their defence is strong as well with the likes of Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Meunier in their ranks.
They faced just 0.75xG in the first 15 months from the start of last year and conceded just once in their last five friendlies so we expect Belgium to score heavily without giving Panama much of a sniff.
With that in mind, the next of our Belgium vs Panama predictions is Belgium to win and over 3.5 goals at 7/4.
Panama failed to score against European opposition in their last four friendlies which included a 6-0 drubbing by Switzerland, a team not known for winning heavily.
Hernan Dario Gomez's side lost 1-0 to both Norway and Denmark, and could only draw 0-0 with Northern Ireland. Their strikers are in the bottom four of all 32 nations at converting chances so we'd be surprised to see Panama score against a team with such excellent defenders and Belgium can throw everything at them.
The last tip is for Belgium to win 4-0 at 10/1. The Belgians will want to finish top of the group to avoid a probable quarter-final with Germany and this is a group which could be decided on goal difference.
Traders' Tips - View from the trading floor
England's main group rivals Belgium will be looking to fly out of the blocks in their bid to prove themselves amongst the world's top footballing nations. Back Roberto Martinez's side to beat Panama by three goals or more in their group opener.
Best Price Promise: Place an acca of three or more teams with BetStars. If the odds are bigger with selected competitors at kick-off, and your bet wins, get the extra winnings paid as cash. Applies to 'Match Result' markets only. T&Cs apply.
More World Cup previews here