Leandro Trossard and Hans Vanaken scored twice as Belgium eased past Belarus 8-0 to move to the top of their World Cup 2022 qualifying group in style.
Belgium fell behind in their first two Group E games – a 3-1 win comeback win over Wales and 1-1 draw with Czech Republic – but were four goals ahead at half-time on Tuesday.
Michy Batshuayi opened the scoring for Belgium after 14 minutes at Den Dreef in Leuven in the absence of the rested Romelu Lukaku and Vanaken added a quickfire second for the home side.
Trossard and Jeremy Doku were also on the scoresheet before half-time and further strikes followed after the interval from Dennis Praet and Christian Benteke, before Trossard and Vanaken completed the rout – Belarus’ heaviest-ever loss.
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) March 30, 2021
Batshuayi failed to beat Aleksandr Gutor from close range early on but he made amends by picking out the roof of the net from a tight angle from the next chance that fell his way.
Vanaken doubled Belgium’s lead three minutes later with a thumping volley from six yards and Trossard sent a glorious third into the top-left corner from long range.
Martinez’s men were home and dry before the interval as Doku beat Gutor with a well-taken strike after being played in by Praet.
Praet went from provider to goalscorer four minutes into the second half with a precise drive from outside the box to join Vanaken and Trossard in scoring his first senior international goal.
Belgium squandered some presentable opportunities before Benteke guided Toby Alderweireld’s cross into the bottom-right corner with a crisp first-time finish for a sixth goal.
Vanaken was somehow denied his second by a Gutor save on the line, but he would go on to round off the scoring late on after Trossard had doubled his own tally with a shot through the legs of the Belarus goalkeeper.
What does it mean? Martinez gets a response
Martinez declared himself pleased with Belgium’s first two results in what was shaping up to be a competitive group, but accepted that more was required from a side ranked number one in the world.
The Belgium boss certainly got a response here, even after resting the likes of Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, with the Red Devils managing an incredible 15 shots on target and falling one goal short of equalling their biggest-ever win.
This emphatic victory moves Belgium three points above Czech Republic, who previously led the standings on goal difference but were beaten 1-0 by Wales in Group E’s other match on Tuesday.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) March 30, 2021
Belgium inspired by Batshuayi
Batshuayi was an unused substitute in Belgium’s first two qualifiers, but he more than took his opportunity here with a goal and an assist in the one-sided contest.
The Crystal Palace striker may have been taken off just after the hour mark, but he still created more chances (three) than any player on the field.
Mignolet the spectator
It was not just in attack that Martinez made changes – Simon Mignolet was brought into the side in place of Thibaut Courtois, who was not in the squad at all.
Mignolet was earning his 30th cap for Belgium and had zero saves to make across the 90 minutes, with Belarus failing to find the target from their two shots.
Belgium return to action with a pre-Euro 2020 friendly against Croatia in early June, while Belarus – who have not qualified for the tournament – host Azerbaijan the same month.
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