World Cup Day 5 roundup: Lukaku stars for Belgium, Kane the hero for England

What happened today

On the fifth day of the 2018 World Cup, we finally saw one of the tournament’s favorites announce itself with a convincing performance in its opening match. Meanwhile, two of the tournament’s biggest stars got on the scoreboard early, netting braces to lift their sides to wins in their tournament openers. Elsewhere, Sweden and South Korea overcame an alleged spy flap to play a game of soccer.

Sweden vs. South Korea

While much of the pre-match buildup centered around a bizarre soccer version of Spygate, Monday’s early game between Sweden and South Korea ended up being rather short on intrigue. After 65 minutes in which nothing much really happened, South Korean midfielder Kim Min-woo, who’d come on a sub after Joo-Ho Park came off injured, brought down Sweden’s Viktor Claesson in the box. Following a brief VAR review, the decision was made to award the Swedes a penalty. Sweden defender Andreas Granqvist stepped up to coolly convert from the spot, giving Sweden a 1-0 lead that proved all it needed to take all three points.

Romelu Lukaku was on-target twice in Belgium’s convincing 3-0 win over Panama (Getty).

Belgium throw the gauntlet down against Panama

After watching most of the pre-tournament favorites sputter in their World Cup openers, we’ve finally seen one of the big sides live up to its top billing as Belgium kicked off its World Cup with a convincing 3-0 win over Panama. After a frustrating first half in which Panama impressed with its commitment and defensive rigidity, Dries Mertens smashed Belgium into the lead just two minutes into the second half, with a first-time right-footer from the edge of the six-yard box.

Belgium doubled its lead in the 69th minute when Romelu Lukaku shook his marker to head an exquisitely chipped Kevin de Bruyne ball in from close range. Lukaku bagged another just five minutes later, breaking after a Panama turnover and being fed by Eden Hazard to finish with a breezy chipped shot that sailed over Panama keeper Jamie Penedo to settle it at 3-0.

Late Kane heroics see England snatch a win

Harry Kane was the hero for England as it opened its World Cup in dramatic fashion by snatching a last-minute winner from Tunisia. It was Kane who fired England ahead early in the match, picking off a rebound after Tunisia keeper Mouez Hassen repelled a headed effort from John Stones off a corner. Kane, who captained the side on the day, was lurking at the near post to poke in the go-ahead goal.

But England failed to build on its lead and Tunisia got back into the game after being awarded a penalty when Kyle Walker needlessly threw his arm across the face of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef.  Despite England keeper Jordan Pickford getting a hand to it, Ferjani Sassi successfully converted for Tunisia, leveling the score at 1-1.

For a long time, it looked as if England had successfully snatched a draw from the jaws of victory. It was deep into extra time when Kane, again lurking at the back post, headed in the winner from close range after Harry Maguire had headed a corner from Kieran Trippier across to the back post. Tunisian hearts were broken, but the Three Lions announced themselves with a roar.

Why it matters

With Germany, Brazil and Argentina all failing to win their openers and France barely squeaking past Australia, Belgium is suddenly looking like the best team at this World Cup. Yes, it was only Panama and yes, it took a while for Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils to get going, but when they did, they looked pretty convincing. Sweden didn’t do much in its win over South Korea, but it didn’t give away much either. Currently tied with Mexico on three points atop Group F, Sweden can probably get by with a draw against Germany on Saturday, which ramps up the pressure on the defending champions following the loss to Mexico. As predicted, Group G looks set to be a slug out between England and Belgium, and it could boil down to the match between the two European sides on the final matchday of group play to decide who tops the group.

GIF of the day

We don’t have an assist of the day, but if we did, Kevin De Bruyne’s exquisite, outside-of-the-foot scoop to set up Lukaku’s opener would be the hands-down winner. Thankfully, we found it in GIF form, which allowed us to shoehorn it in any way.

Tweet of the day

Legendary Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood tweeted his support for England today. And for more than an hour, it seemed the Three Lions were headed for a “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” situation before Harry Kane provided an “Emotional Rescue” with his late goal heroics.

Goal of the day

It doesn’t get much better than Dries Mertens’ first-time volley from the edge of the box. The way his eyes are trained on the target, the way he maintains his composure amidst the chaos. These are the things great goals are made of.

What happens tomorrow

Russia vs. Egypt

Reports indicate Mohamed Salah will be fit to start as Egypt looks to bounce back from its opening loss to Uruguay against Russia. But the host nation is surging with confidence after kicking its World Cup off with a 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia and will be spoiling for a fight. While Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov has insisted his side won’t target the Liverpool star, it seems very risky for Egypt to start a player who, just yesterday, was seen requiring the assistance of three teammates to put on his training top.

Colombia vs. Japan

As Group H finally gets underway, the last of the World Cup’s major stars still waiting in the wings takes his center-stage bow tomorrow, as James Rodriguez leads Colombia out in its tournament opener against Japan. James was the breakout star of the 2014 World Cup, propelling Colombia to the quarterfinals. Will lightning strike twice for James and Colombia? Difficult to say, but a tournament opener against a Japan side in disarray — manager Akira Nishino only came onboard in April after the previous manager was sacked — offers a golden opportunity for Colombia to kick off its World Cup with a win.

Poland vs. Senegal

The final Group H match of the day will see two of European club soccer’s most celebrated attackers go head to head as Robert Lewandowski’s Poland meet’s Sadio Mane’s Senegal.

More World Cup on Yahoo Sports:
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