Here we are! After the favourite teams have played the first game of the 2018 World Cup, it is finally up to Red Devils to kickstart their participation in the competition. First step: Panama.
This first game vs. Panama is not supposed to be an unachievable feat. Belgium is ranked 3rd at the FIFA World ranking, while Panama, one of the so-called weakest teams of the World Cup, appears at the 52th position.
And although Belgium is not one of the highest favourites of the 2018 World Cup, as Axel Witsel admitted a few days ago, the Red Devils are surely one of the most challenging outsiders this year.
Witsel stated that the 2018 team is stronger than the 2014 one, and the preparatory games are quite a good test in that regard. Belgium didn’t lose against Portugal, the 2016 Euro Cup winner, and it looked quite impressive last week against Costa-Rica, which had reached the quarter-finals of the last World Cup (4-1). Having a look at the statistics, Belgium has also not lost their first game of any World Cup for 32 years – losing to the host country, Mexico, the In 1986.
Although Belgium seems definitely better than the “minor player”, there’s no way not to take the game seriously. For their first participation at the World Cup, the Panamanians have absolutely no pressure and will therefore play in a free way. The point for them is quite simple: having fun during all the games. So it’s always worth being quite suspicious versus the ‘small teams’. In 2016, England was knocked out by Iceland, the surprising and friendly team of the tournament.
It is time to stand up for Belgium. Have a 2-hour break tomorrow from 5.00pm to 7.00pm and pop down to any said bar and get stuck in with the support. This first game is not decisive, but it’s still better to start the competition on a win. C’mon you Red Devils!