In a contest that could’ve been built up as David vs. Goliath, Belgium lived up to expectations and eased to a 4-0 win in an international friendly hosted by Scotland.
Both teams lined up in a back three/five, with Scotland’s 3-5-2/5-3-2 built around staying compact and getting the ball into Leigh Griffiths and Callum McGregor.
Belgium were constructed in similar fashion to their team in the World Cup, with Roberto Martínez continuing his penchant for choosing unconventional options at wing-back; he deploying Thorgan Hazard (depicted on the wrong side in the above graphic) alongside his brother and Mousa Dembélé.
The left-sided dynamic between these three players proved to be the dominant locus of Belgium’s possession play, as Hazard constantly demanded the ball in order to initiate attacking combinations. However, despite all of their possession, they created little of note in the first half.
Scotland’s resilient defensive block was the reason for this, as Alex McLeish’s disciplined 5-3-2 blocked off access to the center via a narrowly structured midfield and attack. This forced play out wide, allowing the midfield three to then shift laterally in order to pin Belgium to the wing in question. Once Scotland won the ball back, they sought to play vertical passes into McGregor and Leigh Griffiths (the former of which impressed with his close control) before passes were flicked into runners from wide areas.
But, while the plan was solid, it was undone by the Scotland themselves. In the 22nd minute, they gave the ball away foolishly to a blind-side pressing action by Dembélé, allowing Lukaku to tap home the opener. A quick Hazard goal in the 2nd half, which was borne from individual genius, exacerbated the issue, leading to two more horrific individual mistakes that led to two Batshuayi goals.
Nevertheless, despite the embarrassing scoreline, there were positives to take away from the home side’s performance. They only allowed two real chances in the first half - one from a Hazard header in open play and a Kompany header off a corner - and consistently managed to exploit Belgium’s vertical compactness issues. If Scotland hadn’t given easy goals away and had shown better decision-making on the counter, they could’ve lucked their way to a draw.
Real Madrid Player Watch
Courtois saw almost no action for the majority of the game. His one significant involvement in the first half came when he fluffed a long shot in the 22nd minute. While the strike was well hit, there was little excuse for the way the Madrid keeper let the ball bounce off his gloves and under his legs. However, the impact with the ground killed the velocity of the ball when it wriggled past Courtois, ensuring that no harm was done.
He redeemed himself near the end of the second half with a couple of good saves. Thanks to Belgium’s complacency after going 4-0 up, they conceded a free shot on goal within the six yard box and a good 1v1 opportunity from the right-hand side of the box. Both opportunities were followed by mediocre strikes, though it cannot be denied that Courtois did well to keep a clean sheet - especially with the first chance.