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Belgium kicked off their Group G campaign with a dominant 3-0 victory over World Cup newcomers Panama in Sochi.

A wonder strike from Dries Mertens broke the deadlock for the European side, before Romelu Lukaku took over with a quickfire double to sink a stubborn Panama side that frustrated Belgium for 45 minutes in Sochi.

The Group G favourites took control from the opening minute and barely let up, as they launched wave after wave of attack on the resolute Panamanian back line.

A goal seemed inevitable, but Panama’s defence held firm, and as the half progressed the Central American side grew in confidence and launched a few promising forays forward themselves.

The Belgians undoubtedly possessed the more dangerous attacking threat, with Eden Hazard featuring prominently in the European side’s best moves. But thanks to a gritty defensive display and a couple of key saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, ‘Los Canaleros’ went in level at the break.

But the Belgians broke Panama’s resistance just seconds into the second half when Mertens latched onto a poorly-headed clearance and smashed an unstoppable dipping volley into the far corner to give Belgium the lead.

That goal immediately opened up the game, and just minutes later Michael Murillo forced Thibault Courtois into a smart save after the Panama defender had crept in behind the Belgian defence.

Needing a goal to draw level, Panama threw on two strikers from the bench in a bid to pull themselves back into the game, but it only served to create more space for Belgium, and their big target man took full advantage.

Lukaku nodded in a second from a Kevin De Bruyne cross, then added a third after outpacing the Panama defence and dinking the ball over the outrushing Penedo.

The win gives Belgium the perfect launchpad for their World Cup campaign and, with their next Group G match coming against Tunisia on Saturday, the Red Devils could be guaranteed a spot in the knockout stages before they meet England in their final group game.