#8 // De Bruyne → Lukaku Belgium 2 – 0 Panama

 

It was only a matter of time until the world’s best assist man showed that world that skill.

69th minute, Belgium’s opening game.

De Bruyne. Lukaku. The Manchester Connection.

 

 

Earlier this year, De Bruyne won the EPL’s inaugural “Playmaker Award”, given to the player with the most assists (16) at season’s end.

 

 

There should be an award for what he did today.

A 1-0 lead. The game by no means over. Belgium’s last big tournament having ended in a loss to Wales. And then, today, Hazard lays off a pass to De Bruyne. A Panama defender forces him left, with eight others behind him in the box. De Bruyne takes a big touch left, sees a hole…

And pulls off the only move that could’ve worked—too little time to wind up a full kick, too tight an angle to bend it with his left foot.

He flings his right leg forward, foot bent, and curls off the outside of his foot a perfect low ball through the gap.

Lukaku dives, the ball off his forehead, and in.

2-0 lead, Belgium.

 

 

 

In 2014, in their first World Cup appearance since ’02, Belgium found themselves, almost out of nowhere, with possibly the best lineup in the world.

Kompany. Vertonghen. Hazard. Lukaku. Fellaini. Vermaelen. De Bruyne. Courtois.

They swept the group stage, with 9 points. They beat team USA with a goal and assist from De Bruyne. They lost, narrowly, to Argentina in the quarterfinal.

Then the 2016 Euros blunder happened.

Now, they’re back.

And with the window of this golden generation wide open, this might be the moment they turn into the favorites.

 

 

 

And, as for De Bruyne, there’s more where that came from.

A lot more.

 

 

 

More like that from him, every game of this tournament.

They play next on Saturday. 8:00 am.

 

Tunisia. In Moscow.