Belgium 5-1 Luxembourg: Lukaku treble, Januzaj debuts
Belgium 5-1 Luxembourg
The first eleven with Sammy Bossut in goal was exactly as expected and equally there were no surprises when Belgium opened the scoring in just the third minute. Marouane Fellaini robbed Lars Gershon and found Romelu Lukaku, who took advantage of Anthony Moris’ decision to come out of his goal to find the right angle to drill the ball home. If last night’s game was a tale of two goalkeepers making their international debuts, then neither got off to the smoothest of starts. Luxembourg equalised ten minutes later to stun the crowd. Aurélien Joachim held off a rusty Thomas Vermaelen before catching Bossut out with a magnificent strike into the bottom corner. Joachim then picked Vincent Kompany’s pocket but this time Bossut dived to his left to deny the RKC man. Belgium regained the lead through a stroke of good fortune. Lukaku capitalised on some comedy capers at the back from Luxembourg though Moris really should have kept the effort out.
It remained 2-1 at the break. The tempo was too slow and at times the play was too congested through the centre. This prompted Wilmots to make five changes for the second half. Adnan Januzaj came on for his debut, rather appropriately replacing Eden Hazard, who himself was a debutant off the bench against Luxembourg back in 2008 as a teenager. Elsewhere, Anthony vanden Borre, Daniel van Buyten, Steven Defour and Nacer Chadli came on for Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Axel Witsel and Kevin Mirallas respectively.
Once the substitutes found their feet, there was a definite improvement in the tempo with the play becoming more purposeful. Lukaku completed his hat-trick when he slalomed between two defenders before beating Moris at his near post. It was the perfect end to an evening’s work that was complete when he left the field to be replaced by the third debutant, Divock Origi. Chadli’s power and direct running down the inside left channel was proving to be a threat and he made it 4-1 after a good ball through from De Bruyne, who then added a penalty in stoppage time after Origi had been fouled.
There was some sloppiness at the back and it’s clear that the players are not yet firing on all cylinders – nor should they be at this stage of proceedings. It’s better to get such nonchalance out of the system in a home game against Luxembourg. Wilmots is never happy and at times he cut a slightly anxious figure on the touchline. Despite my criticism of Vermaelen at club level, he should retain his spot alongside Kompany for Belgium but he needs to step things up over the next two friendlies.
If anyone asks you what position Kevin De Bruyne plays, the best answer to give is that he’s just an outstanding all-round footballer. He reads the game superbly and has excellent vision and decision-making. There was one such instance in the first half when the shot was on inside the box but instead he rolled a deft pass into the path of the advancing Mirallas. He also dovetailed well with Chadli in the second half. For my money, he should still start on one flank but if Wilmots wants to tweak the balance of his side, De Bruyne will do an equally sterling job in a central playmaking role in front of Witsel and Fellaini.
Speaking of Fellaini, he remains an excellent player. After the game, he emphasised the fact that he has a coach who believes in him. It doesn’t take a detective to be able to read between the lines. Wilmots knows better than to stifle his ability to be a threat in the final third and to have him stationed on the left wing for large periods. Defour will also not let anyone down in Brazil whether he has to step in for Witsel, drop alongside him in trying to hold a lead or in a slightly more attacking role. Chadli showed again why he is a big favourite of Wilmots because whether he plays in midfield or out wide, his powerful and direct running allied to his ability to score offers something slightly different.
The young debutants have settled in well off the field and continued that on the pitch last night. Januzaj said afterwards he was comfortable in front of the enthuastic crowd who applauded his every move. His best moment was leaving the defender for dead down the left and crossing for his clubmate Fellaini at the back stick. He displayed his usual confidence and array of tricks. Origi was subdued at first but came good at the end with a burst of pace to win the penalty. Like so many in this squad, from defence to attack, they are comfortable in a variety of positions and roles, whether that be across the pitch or vertically.
Marc Wilmots: .”We have to cut the nonchalance out but we still have three weeks to work on that. Everyone is thinking about the World Cup and aren’t going into the duels 100%. (Januzaj) adds something to our team but there is a lot of competition. Everyone has to be ready to come on or start. We’ll work intensively for 3,4,5 days with two training sessions a day (in Sweden).” (VRT)
Romelu Lukaku: “Yes, I have a mantelpiece. (The match ball v Lux) will go beside the ball from the game (for WBA) v Man Utd.”
Adnan Januzaj: I wasn’t under much pressure. I’m used to playing in front of 80,000 at Manchester United. I am happy with my debut. It’s my job to play one touch, to dribble, to entertain the crowd a bit. (VRT/RTL)
Where to from here The squad are off to Sweden today for another training camp. They will play Sweden on Sunday before their final friendly next Saturday against 90% of Georges Leekens’ Tunisia in Brussels. Featured image courtesy of @BelgianFootball.