Greece missed a chance to get in front early on with Konstantinos Stafylidis smashing the ball against the right post in the most notable moment in the first half which ultimately returned to haunt the hosts.
It was Vertonghen who opened the scoring for Belgium with a precise shot from the edge of the box, while Greece responded almost immediately through Jose Zeca who latched on a cross for an easy tap-in.
The hosts’ hopes lasted for a brief moment before getting ruined and destroyed by the big man Romelu Lukaku who continued his impressive form with a towering header that made sure Belgium are going to Russia.
Here are the five things we learned from the match at Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium:
Anxiety vs Control
Things are now all but solved in Group H with Belgium firmly behind the driving wheel and on road to Russia with eight points behind their closest rivals. The race for the second spot, however, remains wide open as both Greece and Bosnia & Herzegovina are expected to fight it out until the very end for the second runners-up place.
The race for the second spot, however, remains wide open as both Greece and Bosnia & Herzegovina are expected to fight it out until the very end for the second runners-up place.
The pressure was understandable for the hosts and so was all the anxiety Greece displayed in front of their own fans on Sunday night against Roberto Martinez’s men. Greeks did well to put a fight and keep their head above water, whereas they also bravely returned back to life after that Vertonghen opener as Zeca leveled the score three minutes after conceding, but the anxiety eventually caught up with them and there was little they could have done against Red Devils who were always fully in control of the proceedings.
Greece Improves but Insufficiently
Coming off from four consecutive stalemates in the World Cup qualifying, Greece knew they had to show improvement against the favored Belgium side. The goalless draw against Estonia came as a huge disappointment for Michael Skibbe’s side. The Greeks were frustratingly held to a draw when they were expected to grab easy three points, but their job of making amends against a side like Belgium was never going to be an easy one.
Greece still managed to steady the lines for the good part of the game and show composure and good desire to make something out of the game tonight. Having put in a brave fight for the first 45 minutes, the Greeks attempted to make a scrap out of it after the break as they began to find it difficult to keep up the pace and agility against the clearly more talented Belgium outfit. They ended up showing great determination to get back to life thanks to Zeca’s acute finish, but the obvious difference in quality was too huge to neglect.
Having put in a brave fight for the first 45 minutes, the Greeks attempted to make a scrap out of it after the break as they began to find it difficult to keep up the pace and agility against the clearly more talented Belgium outfit. They ended up showing great determination to get back to life thanks to Zeca’s acute finish, but the obvious difference in quality was too huge to neglect.
Belgium One of the Contenders for World Cup Glory
They might be one of the most quality sides in Europe – and on the planet for that matter – but Belgium have largely failed to make good use of their undeniable talent at the international scene, especially when it comes to major competitions.
One of the biggest favorites to emerge European winners at the Euro 2016 in France last year, the Red Devils made sure to put the quarterfinal disappointment quickly behind them. Unbeaten in their last ten matches – both friendly and qualifiers – Belgium displayed a remarkable stretch of form, especially upfront in the attacking department. They are cruising through the group stage with a goal difference of 35-3 and will be hoping to extend their records to Russia as well.
The 2018 World Cup might be one of the biggest break of the current generation which dwelling in right years, experience and the state of mind – it appears – has all that it takes to compete for the world title.
The Manchester United striker is enjoying a prolific run of form which comes as great continuation to his last season’s heroics. The Belgium forward soared inside the box to latch on a lofted cross in the second half for a classically composed finish – singlehandedly sending Belgium into the World Cup.
It was his tenth goal in the qualifiers and his ninth this season for both club and country. The Red Devil is clearly enjoying life and it’s good to see him finally outgrow the shadows that followed him in the past, claiming Romelu Lukaku was not the big-game player.
With Manchester United frontman flaunting his full potential and quality this season, sky is the limit for the Belgium national team.
You Never Know Where They’ll Hit You From
Not much needs to be said of a team that can afford to keep one Eden Hazard on the bench. Belgium boasts impressive squad depth with their first string of equal quality to players sitting as subs.
Roberto Martinez opted to go with a strong 4-3-3 which fluently transformed into 4-2-3-1 to offer Belgium plenty of options in the attacking third. The Red Devils are a fully attack-oriented side which they once again demonstrated in Greece. It’s never easy to guess where the biggest threat would come from with Belgium and as soon you patch one leak there emerges another source of potential problems.
Even if you manage to contain them, an unassuming player such as Vertonghen will open you up with an unstoppable long-range effort and there is not much you can do about it. Simply put, Belgium proved there is a huge difference in class in quality between them and the rest of Group H.
GREECE: Karnezis 6.5 – Maniatis 6 (Bakasetas 6), Manolas 6.5, Sokratis 6, Tzavellas 6.5 – Zeca 7, Tziolis 7, samaris 6.5, Stafylidis 6 (Lykogiannis 6) – Fortounis 6.5 (Vellios 6) – Donis 6.5.
Unused subs: Anestis, Bouchalakis, Diamantikos, Gianniotas, Koutroubis, Kyriakidis, mantalos, Siopis, Tachtsidis.
BELGIUM: Coutrois 6.5 – Meunier 7, Alderweireld 6.5, Vermaelen 7, Vertonghen 7.5 – De Bruyne 7.5, Dembele 6.5 (Hazard 6.5), Ffellaini 7 (Dendoncker 6) – Mertens 7, Lukaku 8, Carrasco 7.
Unused subs: Batshuayi, Benteke, Casteels, Chadli, Ciman, Defour, Hazard T., Mignolet, Mirallas, Tielemans.
REFEREE: Szymon Marciniak
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