The Belgian FA asked the fans to get behind the team and they did at a full and noisy Roi Baudouin stadium. The Red Devils also played their part by defeating an experimental Dutch side 4-2. It was only afriendly but Marc Wilmots will be mightily pleased as the World Cup qualifiers get ever closer.
The first half saw the Belgians gain a slight advantage with a goal from Genk’s Christian Benteke. At half time, Lois van Gaal made four changes and importantly introduced an almost totally new back four – players with very little international experience. Belgium also made a change, bringing on Toby Alderweireld for Daniel Van Buyten. Before Thomas Vermaelen could say hello to his new defensive partner, the Oranje had scored twice.
With the Dutch fans celebrating, Marc Wilmots threw on Dries Mertens, Moussa Dembele, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne – replacing Eden Hazard (who hadn’t really turned up), Nacer Chadli, Benteke and Kevin Mirallas. All four newcomers looked up for the fight and – against the new recruits in the Dutch defence – the Rode Duivels scored three goals in five minutes. PSV’s Dries Mertens was the most decisive with a goal and two assists.
With Vincent Kompany and Marouane Fellaini to return to the squad, the fans are happy, the Belgian FA will be content and Wilmots will be closer to knowing who he will use in the qualifiers. Not a bad night’s work.
Five things we learnt last night
1. Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku have similar strengths ans weaknesses. They will be useful in some matches, not in all.
2. Toby Alderweireld is a long way down the pecking order in central defence.
3. Vincent Kompany and Axel Witsel are probably the only two in the squad who are certain to start in every game.
4. Jan Vertonghen and Guillaume Gillet could be excellent attacking full backs but both may have problems defensively in that position.
5. Marouane Fellaini may regret missing last night’s match as Witsel, Steven Defour and Moussa Dembele looked like a very strong midfield three.