Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku were among many who impressed as Belgium beat Wales 3-1 in a FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers match-up on Wednesday.
It was not the best of starts to the game for Belgium, as Wales broke the deadlock in the 11th minute with a slick team move that involved the front three, as Gareth Bale set Harry Wilson up for the opener. Belgium, though, showed just why they are the top ranked team in the world, remaining unfazed by that goal to grab the game by the scruff of its neck.
The equaliser came soon enough and with a sumptuous strike by Kevin De Bruyne, who scored from 25 yards out. Just ahead of the half hour mark, Belgium were finally ahead, as Thorgan Hazard headed in Thomas Meunier’s pinpoint cross from close range, with the hosts now in control and thoroughly so.
Wales did show more purpose post the interval, but Thibaut Courtois was never really troubled. And the game was put to bed in the 73rd minute, when Romelu Lukaku converted from the spot, after Dries Mertens had been brought down in the box by Chris Mepham. Having made a positive start to the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers, The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Roberto Martinez’s men.
Thibaut Courtois: 6/10
There was not much that Courtois could have done to deny Harry Wilson and he was not forced into a single save all night, with Belgium being so utterly dominant. Only misplaced 6 long balls, completing 81 percent of his attempted passes.
Toby Alderweireld: 6/10
A night wherein he was never really called into action, Alderweireld saw the ball more often than anyone else on the pitch (153 touches) while completing 93 percent of his attempted passes. That was what he did for much of the night, with a solitary clearance being his only real defensive contribution on a quiet outing.
Thomas Vermaelen: 6/10
A surprise starter in the back three, Vermaelen had a largely unspectacular evening. Needed to react better to the movement of Wilson, but other than that moment, he was never really tested. Completed 81 of the 82 passes he attempted, though, in what was a redeeming quality on a sub-par evening.
Jan Vertonghen: 6/10
Vertonghen ought to have done better to contain Gareth Bale in the build-up to the goal that Wales scored. There were one or two other nervy moments as well and the Belgium skipper was not at his solid best. Reasonably precise with the ball at his feet, though.
Thomas Meunier: 7/10
A solid effort by Meunier, who delivered the cross that was converted by Thorgan Hazard for the goal that essentially the match-winner after being released brilliantly by Kevin De Bruyne. The 29-year-old was also solid in defence, winning 4 duels while also completing 2 tackles, although some of his crosses were wasteful.
Youri Tielemans: 7/10
The Player to Watch in our preview, Tielemans was in-charge of conducting play from deep in the midfield, which is exactly what he did. While the 23-year-old was not quite at his best, he still did link up superbly with De Bruyne while also putting in the hard yards off the ball, winning 6 duels.
Leander Dendoncker: 7/10
A colossal display by Dendoncker, who was immovable at times in the middle of the park. Also, he completed nearly each of his attempted passes (80/82), which helped assert Belgium’s dominance on the game. Won 4 duels while also completing 4 tackles.
Thorgan Hazard: 7/10
A fine showing by Hazard, who was a constant outlet on the left flank in his role as the wing-back. The Borussia Dortmund star was always at hand to link up with the front-men and sent in some inviting long balls as well. The notable moment for him, though, was the finish for his goal while he also grabbed the assist for De Bruyne’s goal.
Kevin De Bruyne: 8/10
Kevin De Bruyne created more chances (4) and completed more take-ons (4) than any other player against Wales.
He also scored his fifth goal in his last four games for club and country. pic.twitter.com/s4iAU5G9L2
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 24, 2021
The clear standout and the man of the match, De Bruyne continues to be sensational for club and country. While he had not been in full flow ahead of the international break, this game saw him take big steps in the right direction. The finish for his goal was just outstanding while he was always at hand to create openings, playing 4 key passes. Was involved in the build-up to Hazard’s goal as well.
Dries Mertens: 6/10
A professional display by Mertens, who did what was asked of him but was never really spectacular in his display in the final third. Aimed a couple of shots at goal, but neither troubled Danny Ward. However, the veteran forward did win the penalty that was converted by Lukaku.
Romelu Lukaku: 7/10
A difficult game for Lukaku, who was often double teamed by Wales in the final third. That meant that he could not really muster up too many efforts at goal, although he should have converted an early chance created by De Bruyne. Made no error in scoring from the spot, though.
Jason Denayer: 7/10
On for the underwhelming Vermaelen, Denayer was solid at the centre of Belgium’s back three and hardly put a foot wrong, as the hosts shut off Wales efficiently.
Timothy Castagne: N/A
On for Hazard, Castagne helped see the game out without much of a fuss.
Leandro Trossard: N/A
A late introduction, Trossard helped see the game out.