World Cup previews: Belgium v Panama
Here’s what the Football Manager 2018 data has to say about the likely line-ups for this match. The explanation for this is here but in a nutshell I’ve treated the Football Manager database like a scouting tool and compared the two teams across a range of measures by combining their in-game attributes.
Here’s how the two teams stack up in terms of overall ability according to Football Manager’s researchers, i.e. the game’s hidden ‘current ability’ stat:
No surprises here really – Belgium look really strong on paper and even their potential weak link Boyata is more highly-rated than the best Panamanian player. Four of the underdogs’ squad stand out: Godoy and Gomez in midfield, Torres in central defence and the goalkeeper Penedo.
Let’s have a look at where each side’s goals could come from using the various attributes around converting chances:
The two centre forwards are their respective teams’ best chances of finding the net, but it’s fair to say that Belgium have goals in them across the pitch. Panama meanwhile are likely to see either Godoy or Rodriguez pop up from midfield if Perez has an off day.
Here’s who might be instrumental in getting the ball to the aforementioned likely goal-getters by unlocking the opposing defence:
It’ll shock nobody to learn that Kevin De Bruyne is the most creative player on the pitch, although again there’s no shortage of options in this Belgium side. Carrasco and Hazard on the left could combine to devastating effect if given room. For Panama, Cooper in midfield is likely to be their conduit, although Rodriguez on left wing is also above-average in the guile department.
Finally let’s have a look at which players are most able to impose themselves physically on the game:
The physical battle between Lukaku and Torres could be an interesting one whenever Belgium get the ball into the box, while at the other end a strong Belgian back three could make life difficult for Panama’s relatively slight attackers. While Perez, Godoy and Gomez can probably take care of themselves, the other three midfielders don’t look like they’re going to be barging anyone over this afternoon.