Belgium kicks off its FIFA World Cup 2018 appearance against Panama on June 18.
Panama is making its first ever appearance in the World Cup but Belgium has 12 appearances under its belt, with the most recent one being in 2014.
As a result Belgium has more experience under their belt but Panama likely has a few tricks up its sleeve as they are a scrappy, young team looking to make some noise in their first World Cup.
Belgium is ranked number three overall according to the FIFA World Rankings, making them a favorite to go far in the tournament, with only Germany and Brazil ranking higher.
The opening match against Panama might have a lot of eyes on it since it’s Panama’s first World Cup match ever and Belgium is a good team. It will be interesting to see how Belgium performs.
Here’s a look at Belgium’s World Cup squad:
Belgium’s World Cup Roster
- Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham)
- Thomas Meunier (Paris Saint-Germain)
- Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona)
- Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
- Dedryck Boyata (Celtic)
- Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
- Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)
- Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian)
- Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
- Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
- Nacer Chadli (West Bromwich Albion)
- Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht)
- Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Moenchengladbach)
- Youri Tielemans (Monaco)
- Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur)
- Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea/Dortmund)
- Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang)
- Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad)
- Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
- Dries Mertens (Napoli)
- Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)
- Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)
- Koen Casteels (VfL Wolfsburg)
Unlike Panama, Belgium’s team is built with a lot of players from powerhouse teams like Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. Many of these players compete in the Premiere League so there is a lot more competition than there is in a league like the MLS.
As a result, Belgium will have a lot of experience going into the World Cup and that should play into their favor in their opening match against Panama. This is the World Cup though and everybody loves a good Cinderella story so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Belgium’s opening schedule puts them against Panama, Tunisia and England. The match against England will likely decide the winner of these group since Group G is arguably the most lopsided of them all.
ESPN has predicted Belgium should easily make it into the last 16:
Belgium should make it into the last 16 without problems, beating Panama and Tunisia. If they finish ahead of England and top Group G, Brazil could await them in the quarterfinals. If the finish second behind the Three Lions, they are likely to face Germany in the quarterfinals. That hurdle will be high and it is logical to predict that the Belgians would go out at that point, just like in 2014 and 2016. If they manage to overcome that hurdle, though, they could win the tournament.
This is sports and everybody loves an underdog so there will probably still be a lot of people rooting against Belgium. Barring something miraculous, we’ll surely see either Belgium or England come out on top in this group.