Can we have Man City De Bruyne back?! Belgium winners, losers and ratings as Batshuayi & Courtois keep Canada at bay


Belgium’s back three:

Belgium, as a team, struggled dismally to deal with Canada’s energy and pace during the first half but the backline looked particularly sluggish, which is hardly surprising of course. Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen make up two-thirds of the back three and they are 33 and 35, respectively. They still have their attributes, of course – Alderweireld played a fine ball over the top for Batshuayi to break the deadlock – but their deficiencies were there for all to see in Al Rayyan.

Eden Hazard:

Eden Hazard knows he’s not the player he once was. He admitted it before the tournament began. He no longer has the same pace or nimbleness with which he once terrorised defenders. Injuries have seen to that. Hazard was hopeful that in spite of his relegation to a reserve player at Real Madrid that he might be able to play at a decent level here in Qatar. However, on the evidence of his first outing, that seems unlikely. There were some flashes of the old magic; the way in which he took down one long ball over his shoulder during the first half drew gasps from the press box. Unfortunately, that was to be the highlight of an evening that was brought to a premature end by his 62nd-minute substitution.

Kevin De Bruyne:

Was that really Kevin De Bruyne out there? You know, the best midfielder in the world, that Kevin De Bruyne. Because what we saw here was a pale imitation of the player that lights up the Premier League on a regular basis. De Bruyne butchered one brilliant Belgian breakaway in the first half, played the ball straight into touch early in the second half and then suffered the ignominy of being nutmegged by Stephen Eustaquio, which drew one of the biggest cheers of the night. FIFA inexplicably named him man of the match but even De Bruyne admitted that he had got it on name recognition alone. He’ll know himself that he will have to perform a hell of a lot better if he is to carry this Belgium team to the final. Every player can, of course, have a bad game, even the great ones. But if there’s a deeper issue at play here, if De Bruyne is tired, or feeling the strain of having already played so many games in such a short space of time this season, then Belgium really are in big trouble.

Yannick Carrasco:

Yannick Carrasco is not everyone’s idea of a quality wing-back. Yes, he’s great going forward but it’s fair to say that defending has never been his forte. Martinez clearly expected Belgium to do most of the attacking here, meaning Carrasco would be on the front foot most of the time. As it transpired, though, he spent most of the first half in retreat. His half-time withdrawal was, therefore, inevitable, given the Atletico Madrid man was already on a booking for giving away the early penalty with a reckless handball.



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