Connect in the back of the net

The Belgium Red Devils look to have put behind the insanity that was their opening match at the European Championship in which they fell to a tumultuous 2-0 defeat at the hands Italy.

Marc Wilmots’ charges ravaged past the Republic of Ireland with a 3-0 victory on Saturday afternoon to greatly advance their chances of making it through to the round of 16.

The Belgians gave their fans a scare after failing to find the back of the net in the opening half, but with a humiliating, unceremonious exit from the tournament beckoning, the sleeping giant awoke from its slumber.

A goal from Axel Witsel coupled with a Romelu Lukaku brace secured the three vital points for Belgium, placing them second on the standings behind Italy who have already advanced into the last 16.

Here are three key observations from the match.

 

Lukaku finally turns up for the party

In football there is the underlying notion that you’re only as good as your last game. Going into the European Championship in France Romeru Lukaku had scored four goals in four appearances for his country, but even that was not enough to spare him from the taunting he received following Belgium’s loss to Italy.

Being the highest rated team in the competition- even higher than World Champions Germany- Belgium were expected to rip teams to shreds with their star ridden line up.

The result against Ireland however has them back on track and in their rightful place. Lukaku opened Belgium’s scoring account of the tournament three minutes after the interval before Axel Witsel doubled their lead in the 61st minute.

The Everton striker added his second of the night in the 70th minute, a goal scored for good measure as Ireland never showed any signs of marshalling a comeback.

Lukaku is now among the leading goal scorers in the tournament alongside Dimitri Payet, Gareth Bale, Bogdan Stancu and Alvaro Morata who thus far have two goals each.

 

Improved chances of making it through

Belgium’s win over the Republic of Ireland elevated them to second place in Group E, three points behind Italy who have already attained automatic qualification into the last 16 after registering two wins in two outings.

The Red Devils would do best to win their last group match against Sweden in order to book a place in the last sixteen.

Meanwhile the teams already into the next round by virtue of winning their first two matches are hosts France, Spain and Italy.

 

Passing efficiency from the Red Devils

The peak days of Spanish dominance may be over- although the defending champions won’t go down without a fight- but teams seem to have learnt a thing or two from Vincente del Bosque’s side.

Belgium’s second goal was a product of 28 uninterrupted passes, more than Alvaro Morata’s goal for Spain [against Turkey] that saw a string of 22 uninterrupted passes.

Belgium had the lion’s share of possession so much that Thibaut Courtois was reduced to a passenger between the sticks with no shots on target to worry him.

With that said, would it be safe to suggest Marc Wilmots’ charges are back?

 

Written by Brian Humphrey

Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum

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