Stop saying 1-4, say 6-1. Kevin De Bruyne’s whirlwind led Belgium to a tennis result against Poland and kept national team coach Roberto Martinez out of the wind.
It was exactly ten in the evening when the King Baudouin Stadium felt like coming home again. Polish fans, who ran out of cards in each box, calmed down after an hour of chanting and honking. Polish football players were satisfied with the score 1-1 on the board. But Kevin De Bruyne wanted more. Grinta and the fun he lost against Holland last Friday suddenly came back with familiar doses.
It was an old acquaintance who handed him the assist for 2-1. Based on the physical data that football increasingly depends on, Eden Hazard staying on the field was an anomaly after an hour. The leader of the Red Demons could have handed over his bracelet after twenty minutes, if the physical parameters were decisive. But Hazard remained standing even after the break. After De Bruyne defeated goalkeeper Bartholomew Dragosky, he hugged his teammate. “KDB” and “Eddie Hazard” – they often played against each other as rivals – but actually are good teammates with mutual respect.
The attribute of demons does not stand or fall with Romelu Lukaku – absent on Wednesday – but with De Bruyne. If ‘KDB’ finds the holes, the plow rotates. In the first half, Belgium had started the match better. But just as against Holland, it was the opponent who took the lead.
Martinez had previously asked: “Don’t judge me by one match, but judge me by four.” The national coach had his reasons to ask for patience after the 1-4 loss to the Netherlands. Two of the four matches that Belgium will play in the Nations League this month will be against Poland. This is a different kind of opponent than the Netherlands, Martinez testified.
Star servants of the world
Poland is basically built around one global superstar, Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski. Grzegorz Krychowiak (formerly PSG) and Piotr Zielinski (Naples) are good players, but the others served Great Robert. Lewandowski, now released by Barcelona, showed his class when Yannick Carrasco forgot to go out and checked a tricky ball and pushed it in front of Simon Mignolet. A universal acrobatic target for which a Polish captain received a patent.
Poland showed themselves weak in defense and Batshuayi hit the post after the first opening by De Bruyne. Hazard allowed the ball to hit the goal, but he shot wide. Early missed chances brought back memories of the match against Holland, after which Belgium scored a goal.
But this time the demons had a reaction. De Bruyne plunged into the back of the Polish defense from the left and watched as the goalkeeper pushed his cross to the feet of Axel Witsel. The midfielder, departing from Dortmund, scored the equalizer dry and clear.
Not just Kevin De Bruyne, the other demons also came out better. Dedric Boyata, Hans Vanaken and Thomas Meunier have been ruled out, along with injured Romelu Lukaku. Leander Dendoncker, Yuri Tillmans and Yannick Carrasco took their place. The latter brought more energy to the ward. Dendoncker then played again on the right flank in the three-man defense, allowing Toby Alderweireld to play in the middle.
In the second half, Martinez remained loyal to him at the start. After an hour of playing, the demons increased the pressure. Dendoncker forced Dragowski to save with a header after a long corner kick, and Hazard also tested the Polish goalkeeper in returning the ball.
Played by Carrasco, Timothy Castaney has played past from distance. But after another counterattack, this time across the left flank, De Bruyne managed to score 2-1. The City midfielder was now completely at large and returned to his team’s penalty area to neutralize the Polish attacks.
Hazard missed another great opportunity when the score was 3-1, but substitute Leandro Trossard confirmed his good season at Brighton with two goals. First by showing two Polish defenders after a nice dribble on the right, then by rolling the ball into the box after a short corner. Leander Dendoncker, who was initially mistakenly called the scorer, scored 5-1. Loïs Openda’s debut even made it a tennis score in the final slot.
The apparent victory over a European team that will soon play in the World Cup finals is certainly a boost for Martinez, who was heavily criticized after a 1-4 match against the Netherlands. But victory means nothing if the demons do not confirm it. Saturday starts against Wales, then the “back game” in Poland.
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