June 26, 2016
Stadium de Toulouse
Hungary 0- 4 Belgium
Kiraly, Kadar, Guzmics, Juhasz (Bode 78’), Lang, Nagy, Gera (Elek, 46’), Lovrencsics, Pinter (Nikolic 75’), Dzsudzsak Szalai
Courtois, Vertonghen, Vermaelen, Alderweireld, Meunier
Witsel, Nainggolan, De Bruyne, Hazard (Fellaini 81’) , Lukaku (Batshuayi,76’), Mertens (Carrasco, 70’)
The score line of this match is a tad misleading. Belgium led with one goal for 70 odd minutes. While the Belgians were clearly the stronger of the two sides, the possession throughout the match was pretty even and Belgium did not capitalize on many of their chances. The possession in the midfield was a bit off but to be fair, that could completely be blamed on the pitch. However, the lopsided score line came truly from the last ten minutes of the match.
Pitch issues have been a big problem for the French stadiums and the pitch in Toulouse was not a big improvement. Courtois had a scare of two and Meunier had some frustrations due to the poor conditions. It seemed that the pitch had not had enough time to really set and it’s a wonder that there were not any injuries due to turned ankles.
Hungary had the oldest team at the Euros with 40 year old keeper, Kiraly and both Elek and Gera are well on the dark side of 30. However, Kiraly showed how often keepers are like wine and improve with age. He was very solid and had some excellent saves throughout the match.
The Belgians on the other hand have youth on their side and should be in their prime for the World Cup in Russia. However, leadership and consistency still give them trouble.
However, their work rate is excellent and their team work throughout this match was a pleasure to watch. My admiration for Kevin DeBruyne continues to grow each time I see him play. While he was not one of the goal scorers, he continually knocked on the door. I’m glad Wilmots moved him to the center where he had room to move and make things happen.
And it was DeBruyne that made the first goal possible. After being fouled, De Bruyne had a beautiful free kick leading directly to the unmarked Alderweireld and Lukaku. Alderweireld got a head on it and Belgium was up by one within ten minutes.
Lukaku and DeBruyne had really good play together for much of the first half and at the beginning of the second. In the first half, both had excellent vision and were able to feed each other some great passes. Hungarian keeper Kiraly had his hands full with some of this and sadly, the pitch also often interrupted the smooth flow of play throughout the half.
The Hungarians had some good chances for the last ten minutes of the first half. Both Lovrencsics and Dszudzsaks had good shots before the half but neither was on target. And again in the early part of the second half, the Hungarians kept control and gave the Belgians some trouble. In particular, Thomas Vermaelen paid a price for some of this. One shot towards goal was blocked by his face and a foul on Pinter earned him a card which will keep him out of the semifinal with Wales on Friday. Belgium’s largest weakness is their back line so the loss of Vermaelen will give Wilmots a few headaches.
But as I mentioned before, the flood of goals did not come until the 78th minute. Batshuayi came on for Dries Merten in the 76th minute and two minutes later, scored.
And that opened the gates for both Hazard to score and then Carrasco, another substitute, mind you, to put the game away in stoppage time.
So Belgium plays Wales on Friday and should feel fairly confident. If they can sturdy up the back line and keep DeBruyne in the center midfield so he can work his magic, they stand a good chance of going through. However, Belgium will have to make the most of their chances and do better with their finishing. Wales will be a motivated team and Gareth Bale’s playmaking will force the Belgian backline to be solid and steady. Stay tuned…