The Red Devils have concluded their 4 matches in the Nations League with a 0-1 victory over Poland. Peter Vandenbempt was also there yesterday in Warsaw and put down that match and the 3 before it. What has he learned towards the World Cup in Qatar?
It didn’t become 6-1 like last week at home, but the 0-1 is a very important victory for the Belgians at the end of this four-part series. In order to be able to go on holiday with a good feeling, winning was simply important, the way in which it was perhaps less important.
But I think that the Belgians played really good football in large parts of the match. In a full stadium with a great atmosphere – almost 60,000 people who supported the Belgians – they handled that well with pressure ahead.
At no point did they give the Poles the chance to play football in large parts of the game, they had to constantly seek refuge in the long ball.
Winning was important to be able to go into the holiday with a good feeling
There were a few highlights: as far as I’m concerned Tielemans, who has grown in this Nations League campaign after a very difficult year. In the end they created quite a lot of chances, now and then also on the counterattack.
They should have scored more goals, so all in all that win is well deserved. And yet – let’s not forget – with what is not the basic squad. Without Courtois, without Kevin De Bruyne, still the indispensable man in midfield, without Eden Hazard, who is even further from his best level without a few nice flashes and heels and without Lukaku in the front.
Batshuayi in the front remains a doubt. He started well, was threatening and of course scored – not unimportant. But then he has so many moments of inattention, of nonchalance, of lack of concentration… That remains a problem in the front.
So without a few strongmen, Belgium has achieved a result in a difficult European away game, which sends them through the summer holidays with a good feeling and it more or less keeps them on course for the Final Four – which Belgium really wants to organize next spring. But then it will have to win in the Netherlands in September and that will not be obvious.
This zero on the board is not exactly reassuring
Winning was one thing, but keeping zero was also important of course. Because apparently the Belgians can do that very difficult. That had only happened 3 times in the past 13 games.
But 5 centimeters, of course, cannot disguise the defensive problems. And I’m not talking about the defence, but about holding on to a lead, converting the ascendancy into a reassuring lead and easily holding out if it’s not on the board. That problem has not been resolved.
Because Swiderski has now headed out 5 centimeters more, otherwise he would have equalized. With a few centimeters difference, we now had a Wales scenario again: where at the end of a match that you always have to win, you hand over a result.
The Belgians had 70 percent possession of the ball in the entire game, the Poles were not involved in the first half. Yet they still had 2 great opportunities at the end of the first half.
In the second half there was the same scenario: the Belgians had chances, Openda should have done better with those 2 chances to score a second or third time. That’s not happening. And then the Poles – despite the fact that they were far below the Belgians in the field game – still have 3 huge chances to score a goal.
If you add that up, that’s again too much. If you do that against a team with more offensive qualities, you will lose another result. The luck of the Belgians was that the men who had the chances are not called Lewandowski, otherwise you might even lose this game.
That would have been improbable based on the great preponderance and the game image. We’ll take that with us anyway, it was a matter of a few centimeters or you had a much worse feeling. That zero on the board isn’t exactly reassuring in view of what’s to come.
Swiderski hits the post.
No new conclusions: Martinez goes for the old guard
There are not necessarily new conclusions to be drawn after this fourth game than after the previous three. We know that Belgium can win matches against the European middle bracket of course, but if they finished their chances it would have been with a bigger difference.
The results – 7 out of 12 – are something to write home about, but if you look at how other major football countries struggle with tired players at this time of the year, so are the Belgians. That is definitely true. England and France do that, Italy has been given a pandering by Germany.
That is no different for the Belgians, only it is of course not new. If it was only in this Nations League campaign and the Belgians had been their overwhelming selves for the rest of the year, these conclusions would have been beside the point.
We will see how it will evolve from September and we know that the key players – with De Bruyne, Hazard, Lukaku – have to be in absolute top form, that Witsel has to find a team where he can reach his very best level again…
The young players, the up-and-coming talent have been used far too little
The most important observation for me is that Roberto Martinez has once again shown in this campaign that he will play the World Cup in Qatar again with the same old guard that has done it for him over the past 4, 5, 6 years. .
If you look at the choices he made for this fourth game in the Nations League, where he realized a result was important, it was with the established players too. Not a single youngster had a chance from kick-off and the substitutions came very late in the game.
If you also look at the previous matches, it is mainly the older players who have been given the opportunity to play.
And so my conclusion is: with an eye on Qatar, Martinez is going to hold on one last time to the guys who almost did it for him at the World Cup in Russia. At least if they are in shape and can play well.
The shortcoming of this campaign: the young players, I will mention only two with De Ketelaere and perhaps Saelemaekers, have been used far too little.
If you see this campaign as a kind of preparation for the World Cup, then at least they have understood that well.
Trossard has mainly played himself in the favor of the national coach with substitutions – not with a base place. I think Dendoncker is a discovery in the back. Shouldn’t you just replace Denayer or Boyata with Alderweireld and Vertonghen?
But for the rest, the national coach will only renew after the World Cup, at the games in September it will be clear that the same guys will be drafted again to be prepared. The rest still have to wait in the waiting room, the old guard can try it one more time at the end of the year.