Listen Download Podcast
  • RFI English News flash 04h00 - 04h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 09/23 04h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 04h10 - 04h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 09/23 04h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 05h00 - 05h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 09/23 05h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 05h10 - 05h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 09/23 05h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h00 - 06h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 09/23 06h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h10 - 06h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 09/23 06h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h30 - 06h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 09/23 06h30 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h33 - 06h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 09/23 06h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h00 - 07h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 09/23 07h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h30 - 07h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 09/23 07h30 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 09/23 14h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h06 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 09/21 14h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 14h03 - 14h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 09/23 14h03 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h06 - 14h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 09/21 14h06 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h30 - 14h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 09/23 14h30 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h33 - 14h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 09/23 14h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 09/23 16h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h06 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 09/21 16h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h03 - 16h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 09/23 16h03 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h30 - 16h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 09/23 16h30 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h33 - 17h00 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 09/23 16h33 GMT
To take full advantage of multimedia content, you must have the Flash plugin installed in your browser. To connect, you need to enable cookies in your browser settings. For an optimal navigation, the RFI site is compatible with the following browsers: Internet Explorer 8 and above, Firefox 10 and +, Safari 3+, Chrome 17 and + etc.
Sports

Star studded Belgium expected to cruise past Panama

media Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois during a practice session. REUTERS/Albert Gea

Belgium, quarter-finalists four years ago in Brazil, are expected to waltz past Panama. That Roberto Martinez’s men aren’t considered hot favourites for the title highlights the perennial prejudices of World Cups.

Brazil, Germany and Argentina are promulgated as champions because they have accounted for 11 of the 20 tournaments since 1930.

But the Belgians should not be discounted from ultimate glory on 15 July. They have a team packed with stars from the leading leagues.

Skipper Eden Hazard is the inspiration at Chelsea. Kevin de Bruyne was key to Manchester City’s march to the 2018 English Premier League title and striker Romelu Lukaku was the muscle behind Manchester United’s race to keep last season’s English championship interesting.

Vincent Kompany was Manchester City’s defensive bedrock when he was available to play for Pep Guariola’s side.

Doubts around his participation in the World Cup rose when he limped off the pitch during the warm-up friendly against Portugal on 3 June.

But Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said on the eve of the Panama match that Kompany would remain with the squad even if he was not fit enough to feature in the opening match at the Fischt Stadium in Sochi.

“He’s recovering better than expected,” Martinez said. "Having Vincent Kompany around is very important for the team not only on the pitch.”

Dedryck Boyata is tipped to replace Kompany with veterans Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen spread across the back line.

Hazard and Napoli’s Dries Mertens are expected to operate just in front of a midfield containing the wiles of de Bruyne and the artful running of Axel Witsel formerly of the parish of Zenit St Petersburg before moving last year to Tianjin Quanjian in the Chinese Super League.

Hernan Gomez, the coach of Panama does not possess such resources. The main strike threat is 37-year-old Blas Perez who turns out of the Guatamalan outfit Municipal.

Midfielders such as Jose Luis Rodriguez and Armando Cooper play for Gent’s under-21 side and Universidad de Chile respectively. Big things are not expected.

“Look Belgium are an excellent team with a very good coach but in football anything can happen,” said Gomez.

The 62-year-old added: "Iceland sent Croatia to the play-offs in the qualification stage for the World Cup. Iceland got to the last eight in the 2016 European championships as well. They've got a draw with Argentina here too.”

He added: “It’s true that the Argentina squad isn't at the same level as Belgium right now. But the distance between Iceland and Argentina isn't as significant as the distance between Belgium and Panama."

The former coach of the national teams in Ecuador, Guatemala and Colombia quipped he would drink two bottles of vodka if his team were to reach the last 16.

However no one, even after downing such quantities, would make such a wager.

Related
 
Sorry but the period of time connection to the operation is exceeded.