FIFA World Cup 2018: Belgium expecting tough test against debutants Panama | football | Hindustan Times
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FIFA World Cup 2018: Belgium expecting tough test against debutants Panama

Belgium are favourites to enter the next round but the team’s key striker has conceded that Iceland’s draw against Argentina is a warning that smaller teams should not be taken lightly.

football Updated: Jun 17, 2018 10:45 IST
Reuters
Reuters
Reuters, Sochi
FIFA World Cup 2018,2018 FIFA World Cup,Belgium
Belgium will not be taking Panama, who are making their debut in the FIFA World Cup, lightly. (REUTERS)

Belgium striker Dries Mertens conceded that Iceland’s surprise draw with Argentina had served as a World Cup warning to his side as they prepared to face another small debutant team Panama on Monday.

Although Belgium are hot favourites to win, Mertens acknowledged on Saturday that countries like Iceland -- the smallest nation ever to reach the finals -- had shown with the 1-1 draw that bigger teams were vulnerable if not on their game.

“Yeah, it is a World Cup so every team that is there can play, they have something,” Mertens said. “I think Iceland is a very good team and I hope we can play against Panama and play our game and that we can win.”

“I don’t know that much (about them) but we are starting tonight with that,” the Napoli striker said of the Central American minnows.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was more effusive about his opponents.

“What I expect is a group with great ambition,” Martinez said.

“Getting to the World Cup was a great result for Panama and the Panamanian people. A team that knocked out a nation like the United States deserves a lot of respect. They are fighters, they have a great mentality and are very competitive.”

“I don’t expect an easy game. The first game in the World cup is always difficult.”

First Published: Jun 17, 2018 10:44 IST