Who? Belgium - Panama
Where? Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
When? June 18, 17:00 (CET local time)
The Belgian golden generation is keeping its journey through the major tournament. After reaching both last World Cup and Euro quarterfinals, Belgium wants to do more in their 13th appearance. Their kickoff match against Panama is expected to be a good stage for their first match.
Belgium has been changed in the recent years, as their former manager Marc Wilmots was replaced by the Spanish Roberto Martinez. Under his guidance, Belgium lost only once in 19 games and the confidence level is high. In the back of the scenes, Belgium have another special addition, the assistant manager, Thierry Henry. If someone in Belgium believes in reaching the later stages, Henry can add some of his experience.
As most of the leading Belgian players play for the biggest clubs in Europe, there is one player that his ability is currently in doubt. It is common to think that Axel Witsel prefered his comfort instead of playing in high levels. After years in Russia, Witsel joined the Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian in the last season.
In such a talented squad, it is almost unclear whether Witsel is worth a place in the Belgium lineup or even in the squad. For Witsel, this World Cup will be almost a last chance to prove his criticizers that he is still good enough as he was few years ago.
In its debut appearance, Panama are already making headlines. According to FIFA data, Román Torres is the heaviest player in the World Cup with a weight of 99 kilograms. Earlier this week, a journalist asked kindly for his comment about this issue. His answer was simple - he stood up and revealed his belly, an act that became viral immediately.
Panama is one of the weakest teams in this tournament. No one really gave them a chance to qualify, but a crazy final matchday in CONCACAF hexagonal ended with the historic ticket to Russia. Now, with Belgium and England in the group, Panama are really minnows in World Cup terms.
Although for most of the readers their players are maybe anonymous, they are bringing massive number of caps and international experience. In the squad you can find 9 players at their 30's, 6 of them made also an impressive number of at least 100 caps.
Panama will bring a decent number of fans that will follow their team in this moment. As a Latin nation, we can believe that they will bring the cheering sound at its best. If you want to understand how enthusiastic they are, recall their last qualifiers match. During this game, one fan has deliberately invaded the pitch in order to prevent a goal against the team.
With these interesting stories, Panama will bring more than football the tournament. No matter if Panama could or couldn't to play well, at least we will have a lot of good reasons to enjoy.