The Red Devils opened their World Cup against Canada yesterday with a meager 1-0 win. The same conclusion was drawn afterwards at home and abroad: Belgium must do better if it wants to get far in Qatar.
The last news:
Het Laatste Nieuws, the largest Belgian sports newspaper, concludes its analysis of the Belgian World Cup opener on a positive note: “It can only get better.”
“Now such a first match at a World Cup is always something special, but you would think that this generation has gained enough experience in the past? Learned from those difficult overtures at the time against Algeria and Panama? Not so”, we read earlier.
“The Red Devils were a horror. Trumped on enthusiasm and speed. Sloppy and panicked several times once on the ball. The alarm bells went off. No one who remained calm. No one, except Thibaut Courtois.”
Nobody kept calm. No one except Thibaut Courtois.
“Canada the heart, the Devils the points”, that is the headline of Het Nieuwsblad, which also wants to start with the good news. “The Devils have three points and are therefore in the lead of group F. That is what it will be about later, a good start to reach that second round. Just ask Argentina and Germany.”
“But there is work,” it continues. “Especially in the first half there was hardly any movement in Martinez’s team. The Red Devils were also completely overrun. Literally. The lightning-fast attackers were a scourge for the slow Belgian defense.”
“Three points, yes. But this team is not ready to shine.”
Three points, yes. But this team is not ready to shine.
La Dernière Heure:
Under the language barrier, they found the Red Devils “as bad as the referee from Zambia”.
“The Red Devils have not only complied with the laws of Qatar, they have also mastered the level of play on a football field of the small Emirate.”
“When have the Belgians played so badly at a World Cup? Such a performance will not be enough if the Belgians want to go far in the tournament. This pace may even be too slow to get through the first round. The first place in the group is currently the most undeserved of them all.”
The Red Devils did not immediately impress our northern neighbors either. “Canada shows that Belgium has no chance for the world title,” headlines Voetbal International.
“If they continued to play football like this, they better go home. The pressure was not good, the defense was sloppy, the passing was sloppy and the intensity was completely lacking. With a bit more luck with Canada it was already after 45 minutes of play 0-3.”
“Canada exposed the pain points of an aging golden generation for nearly 90 minutes,” the football website continues in its analysis. “Eden Hazard has been no shadow of the butterfly-like dribbler who makes the difference for years, national coach Roberto Martinez can only conclude that Leandro Trossard is a better option. The team needs energy, intensity and dynamism, Hazard plays football in the veterans league. “
“The duel with Canada will be a huge wake-up call, but it is actually much too late. The Canadians have shown that Belgium has no chance for the world title.”
Algemeen Dagblad and Telegraaf:
They were also strict with the Belgians at Algemeen Dagblad. “The veterans of the golden generation (in quotes) of Belgium were unexpectedly outshone for a long time by eleven energetic athletes from Canada.”
“Only they were very sloppy in the finish, they had against the arbitration and they saw the crafty Belgium score completely against the proportions. That is how Belgium has been warned for the rest of the tournament, to say the least.”
Also in De Telegraaf few words of praise: “It squeaked and creaked with the old Red Devils, who had started the match with six thirty-somethings and two 29-year-olds. It was by no means convincing what the number two in the FIFA ranking on the mated.”
“It squeaked and creaked with the old Red Devils.
“The performance against Canada mocked Belgium’s status as number two in the world,” writes BBC’s Phil McNulty. “Thanks to the failing Canadians, the Belgians have avoided the fate of Argentina and Germany.”
“The golden generation is past its best days”, they also see across the Channel. “The Belgians looked ragged, jaded and desperately vulnerable against the pace and energy of the Canadian offensive game.”
“The 33-year-old Alderweireld and the 35-year-old Vertonghen have served country and clubs very well, but there was an air of desperation against Canada. They simply couldn’t handle the speed and intensity of the opponent. That is ominous for the games ahead.”
The golden generation is past its best days.
The French sports newspaper L’Equipe also did not have much good to say about the Belgians. “After the defeats of Argentina and Germany, Belgium was also trembling against Canada. It was even abused at times.”
“This World Cup will be the last for many Belgian players, but Thibaut Courtois still shines brightest of the entire golden generation. He was vital in stopping the Canadian threat. The Belgians were grabbed by the throat, but then scored on the perfect time.”
With a 2 out of 10, Yannick Carrasco was found to be the worst Devil in class. “His first half was a true shipwreck, he completely missed his start to the World Cup. His substitution at half time was more than justified.
Gazzetta dello Sport:
“There are clear victories and then you have victories that are ugly but very precious,” writes the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. “Belgium’s victory against Canada comes in that second category.”
“Martinez’s team looks less competitive than expected, but they still snatch three valuable points. The Canadians deserved more, including a second penalty.”
Also a word about Eden Hazard: “A player at the end of his career.”
Eden Hazard is a player at the end of his career.
The Spanish newspaper Marca naturally paid a lot of attention to Thibaut Courtois, the capstone of Real Madrid. “With Courtois in goal, you have an advantage,” is the title of the match report against Canada.
“The Red Devils played with fire. The best goalkeeper in the world kept them straight in a match where they were against the ropes. The Canadians did not use it and now regret it.”
“But to do something at a World Cup you have to be able to win a match on a bad day. That’s what the Belgians did.”
The renowned sports website The Athletic saw that Roberto Martinez opted for a starting team full of “familiar faces”. “All the old buddies were on the field together again. The problem is that the emphasis is also on “old” with the Belgians.”
“The Belgians lacked creativity against Canada. Martinez is often accused of sticking to the same players. Wouldn’t Trossard and Faes have been better choices?”
“Belgium may have won 1-0, but you still wonder if Martinez’s conservatism will not cost them dearly in the rest of the tournament.”
In Germany, the finger was pointed at the competition management. “Belgium was lucky that Canada didn’t get more penalties. The Red Devils repeatedly had big problems against Canada, who played well.”
“The Belgians hardly had anything to say against the high intensity of the Canadians, but then appeared dangerously out of nowhere in the penalty area and scored immediately.”