Belgium player ratings as Man United's Romelu Lukaku gets a 8 in 3-0 win over Panama

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Belgium recovered from a drab first half to power past Panama 3-0 in the World Cup Group G opener.

Dries Mertens broke the deadlock with a sensational volley two minutes into the second half.

Kevin De Bruyne’s excellent outside-of-the-boot cross for Romelu Lukaku doubled the advantage for Roberto Martinez’s men in the 69th minute.

Six minutes later, Eden Hazard set up the Manchester United striker for his second on the counter-attack that sealed the points for the Red Devils.

BELGIUM 3-4-2-1

Thibaut Courtois 7 – Had a few saves to make, most of them routine but needed to come off his line and smother an attack late on. Was alert to tip a spectacular effort from Panama’s half over the bar but the whistle had already gone.

Toby Alderweireld 6 – Was excellent with the ball at his feet, making more passes (102) than anyone else on the pitch. Was solid at the back and made a couple of good tackles.

Dedryck Boyata 6 – Playing in the middle of a three-man defence, Boyata gave a good account of himself and dominated in the air, winning eight aerial duels – the most in the game.

Jan Vertonghen 6 – Was left for dead by Barcenas on one occasion and did pick up a clumsy booking as well. Sprayed the ball around well though with nine of his 11 long passes finding their targets.

Thomas Meunier 5 – Was unfortunate to pick up a booking in the first half. Didn’t push up the pitch enough and when he did, his delivery let him down with all of his five attempted crosses intercepted.

Kevin De Bruyne 7 – Was uncharacteristically sloppy with his passing in the first half but came into his own in the second. His sumptuous cross with the outside of his boot for Lukaku’s first was a thing of beauty.

Axel Witsel 5 – Was a bit of a nothing performance from him. Didn’t make many defensive contributions as Panama’s long balls bypassed him mostly. Safe with his passing. Belgium could’ve used a more creative midfielder in his stead.

Yannick Carrasco 6 – Concerns over his defensive frailties persist but was a force in attack. Linked up well with Hazard at times and had a low effort on target.

Dries Mertens 7 – Had a few efforts at goal and scored a contender for the goal of the tournament with a fine dipping volley which his side desperately needed after being frustrated in the first half.

Eden Hazard 8 – Always looked the most likely to create a chance. Went on a few good runs in the first half only for them to fizzle out. Created a host of chances before his through ball for Lukaku’s second.

Romelu Lukaku 8 – Was isolated up front in the first half, only registering seven touches but always looked dangerous with his movement. Came alive with a bit of service to score a brace. Classy finish for his second.

SUBS

Mousa Dembele 5 – Replaced Carrasco as Belgium switched to four at the back and went on the counter. Saw the game out.

Thorgan Hazard N/A – Came on for Mertens in the 83rd minute. Dwelled on possession and eventually lost it on one occasion when the break was on.

Nacer Chadli N/A – Was brought on in place of Witsel in the final minute.

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Sweden's battling spirit shines again and other talking points from 1-0 win over South Korea

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Sweden earned a well-deserved victory.

Sweden earned a hard-fought win against South Korea in the two teams’ World Cup opener on Monday.

Captain Andreas Granqvist slotted home a penalty after a long VAR consultation by the referee to give Sweden a 1-0 victory that took them to joint-top place in Group F alongside Mexico.

Here’s a look at the talking points from the game.

SWEDEN CONTINUE TO BATTLE FOR RESULTS

Sweden’s qualification for the World Cup was built on the back of fighting displays, and although South Korea aren’t the same as vanquished play-off opponents Italy, the same quality was on show on Monday.

In a game where they dominated possession, which can subdue a team’s battling qualities, Sweden found a way to bring out their best, tiring Korea out with their efforts and discipline. Sweden may not overwhelm teams, but they can wear them down.

It’s a formula that brought them to the World Cup, and now that they are joint-leaders of their group, that same formula can lead them further.

Sweden had to battle for victory - which is exactly how they like it.

Sweden had to battle for victory – which is exactly how they like it.

SON CAN’T GO IT ALONE

Heung-min Son bears a heavy burden for his national team. Short of the quality of team-mates he has at club level with Tottenham, he has to serve as chief creator, main goalscoring threat, and inspirational totem all in one.

Perhaps the awareness of his responsibility weighs him down, or he’s simply trying to figure out how to adapt to it, but on Monday he tried too hard to live up to the expectation placed upon him. It seemed as if he’d decided that going it alone was his best option. But for Korea to succeed, he’ll need to trust his team-mates more.

Son may be being worn down by the burden he carries for South Korea.

Son may be being worn down by the burden he carries for South Korea.

SWEDEN NOW SEE ROUTE TO KNOCKOUT STAGES

Mexico’s win over Germany threw this group wide open, and Monday’s match was a case of seeing which team would be able to take advantage. Sweden grabbed the opportunity with aplomb, and now they’ll be fancying their chances to qualify for the knockout stages.

Even if Germany weren’t struggling, a Sweden side that beat Italy to get to the World Cup would have gone into their next game with confidence. As it is, the champions seem to be vulnerable, and Sweden can think about more than just escaping with a point. A win would all but seal qualification.

Sweden have a clear route to the knockout stages now.

Sweden have a clear route to the knockout stages now.

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Man United's Romelu Lukaku scores twice as Belgium beat Panama 3-0

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Belgium recovered from a drab first half to power past Panama 3-0 in the World Cup Group G opener.

Dries Mertens broke the deadlock with a sensational volley two minutes into the second half.

Kevin De Bruyne’s excellent outside-of-the-boot cross for Romelu Lukaku doubled the advantage for Roberto Martinez’s men in the 69th minute.

Six minutes later, Eden Hazard set up the Manchester United striker for his second on the counter-attack that sealed the points for the Red Devils.

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