Sochi — Romelu Lukaku netted a brace as a much-improved second-half performance gave Belgium an ultimately comfortable 3-0 victory over tournament debutants Panama in their World Cup opener in Sochi on Monday. A moment of inspiration from Dries Mertens set the Belgians on their way two minutes after the break, his volley breaking the deadlock after a rather flat first period. Lukaku then converted assists from Kevin de Bruyne and captain Eden Hazard to secure victory. However, this was not entirely the statement of intent Roberto Martinez’s side would have been hoping to make. A victory will do for a team who are, on paper at least, good enough to go far in Russia, especially after heavyweights Germany, Brazil and Argentina all slipped up at the weekend. Belgium are now unbeaten in 20 matches, although the nature of the first-half performance against weak opposition showed that Martinez’s men still have significant progress to make if they are to improve on quarter-final appearances...

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