World Cup qualifiers – Red Devils’ report cards

By | September 12, 2012

Marc Wilmots used 15 players in the games with Wales and Croatia. Here’s my view of how the players fared in the two matches.

Thibaut Courtois: Hardly tested in the two matches; made important saves and interventions when necessary. He’s there to stay.

Eden Hazard, not yet finding his club form for the national team

Guillaume Gillet: Superbly taken goal against Croatia but he’s not a full back. May improve with experience but he’s not a naturally defensive player.
Vincent Kompany: Scored an important goal in Wales. Was not his usual commanding self against Croatia, frequently resorting to long clearances upfield. At fault for Croatia’s goal.
Thomas Vermaelen: Pick of the defence vs. Croatia – solid and often the last line of defence. Back to his best.
Jan Vertonghen: By nature an attacking player, he’s always comfortable going forward. Was a constant threat against Croatia and scored from a free kick vs. Wales. But he’s not a full back and can be caught out by pace.

Jan Vertonghen tells Moussa Dembele about life at White Heart Lane

Axel Witsel: Played in front of the back four in Cardiff and in an advanced role against Croatia. Was not totally convincing in either game but he came to life in the last half hour against the Croats. Maybe his recent move (€40 million) is weighing on his shoulders.
Moussa Dembele: The pick of Belgium’s midfield three in the two games. Strong on the ball, confident and technically capable. His only weakness is an inability to get into the box in shooting positions.
Steven Defour: Only played against Croatia and gave signs that the old Defour of 2007-2010 could be returning; was in front of the back four but he’s far too talented for a mainly defensive role.
Marouane Fellaini: Played box-to-box in Cardiff but was left out (“tired” according to Wilmots) in Brussels and just played 20 minutes. He says he prefers his national team role to his ‘behind the striker’ job for Everton; did not dominate in his 110 minutes..
Eden Hazard: Played right wing in both games, frequently interchanging with Dries Mertens on the left. Looked most at ease when he doubled up on the same wing as Mertens vs. Croatia and when he occasionally moved centrally and got into the box. Belgium have yet to unlock his talent.
Dries Mertens: Man of the match vs. Wales and excellent in the final hour vs. Croatia. Štimac said he was predictable but his crosses/corners were Belgium’s major threat in both games.
Kevin Mirallas: Led the line without success in Cardiff and replaced at half time. Had 10 minutes against Croatia and missed a good opportunity.
Christian Benteke: Played 90 minutes at centre forward vs. Croatia and caused the defence some problems. Tried hard but his first touch and control are not yet good enough for international football.
Romelu Lukaku: Got 45 minutes in Cardiff and, like Benteke, tried hard without really looking the real deal. Said to be not ready for 90 minutes but was not used at all vs. Croatia. .
Kevin De Bruyne: Came on for 20 minutes in both games and played central midfield / right wing. He looks the part and could develop into Belgium’s creative force in the coming years; still only 21.

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