Saturday, 7 September 2013

Scotland 0 v Belgium 2

A filthy night in Glasgow saw Scotland beaten with something to spare by an improving Belgium team. The Belgians have an emerging side who look favourites to qualify from their group and head to Brazil next Summer.

I have seen Scotland lose twice in Brussels over the years when the Tartan Army have swamped the city and the locals have always appeared like luke-warm football fans. Yesterday 7000 of them made the journey to Hampden Park, the largest ever away following they have taken and the largest I have ever seen in Glasgow, although that's probably because the home support didn't sell out rather than the fact that no other country would have taken more if offered the tickets. We overtook dozens of "B" plated vehicles on the drive north including a sizeable number of mobile homes and campervans. In the city itself they had settled in early and made the most of the warm welcome and the alcohol. Whilst waiting for a taxi to the pub to meet mates, we saw a couple of hundred orange-clad Belgie's on a police escorted march towards Central Station. They were carrying their Red Devils and making a lot of noise.

At the ground they filled the traditional away allocation of 4000 and had two other sections in the BT Stand. They had come to support their side and collect three precious points. Their team looked very comfortable on the ball and I was reminded of the Spanish team I watched give Scotland a lesson in Alicante in 2011. They are strong in possession and really play like a club side. This is a remarkable achievement given the fact that their home league is relatively poor and their players ply their trades in sides all over Europe.

Scotland did little wrong and tried their best for most of the match but we had no cutting edge and were restricted to long shots and a couple of half-chances. The Belgians, by contrast, were content to compete but also to wait for their chances to come. The ridiculous looking Marouane Fellaini played a game to order by winning everything that came within five yards of him all night, slowing the play and quickly finding another Belgian. He had no intention of shooting or attacking the Scotland goal but simply did the job he was given and it oiled the Belgian midfield.

Ahead of Fellaini, we got to see Nacer Chadli, a winger-cum-striker recently signed for Spurs and I was very impressed. He plays down the left and was very reminiscent of Cristian Ronaldo in more ways than just his looks. Kevin de Bruyne of Chelsea cut holes in the Scotland back line, especially in the second-half and it was a good job that Benteke was largely shackled all night. After Defour swept Belgium into a first-half lead with a precision finish to a flashing attack, Scotland's night looked over.

Tin-tin's countrymen had plenty in the tank and a gear or two more but they stuck to their game plan and bided their time. It was left to Everton's Kevin Miralles to finish it off as he collected a quick pass to beat the offside trap and race through to finish in the 88th minute. We trudged back to the city centre in the lashing rain and after a few pints in the hotel bar, it was time for bed and time to forget.

Belgium are worth taking a punt on for the World Cup. Get your prices for a semi-final placing or better.

1 comment:

Tony said...

A lot of people were quick to jump on the bandwagon regarding Moyes paying 28 million for Marouane Fellaini from Everton.
I think he is just what United need in the middle of their team.
Shame we couldn't get someone with similar traits over the Valley. Then we could possibly gamble with two up front?