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Belgium hammer sorry Scotland to close in on Euro 2020 qualification

Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen, Toby Alderweireld and Kevin de Bruyne were on target in a 4-0 win.

Lukaku opened the scoring for Belgium at Hampden Park.
Lukaku opened the scoring for Belgium at Hampden Park.
Image: Graham Stuart

BELGIUM MOVED TO the brink of sealing their place in next year’s European championships with a 4-0 demolition of Scotland at Hampden Park on Monday night. 

The hosts could not cope with Kevin de Bruyne as the Manchester City midfielder set up  to score inside the first 32 minutes.

De Bruyne then capped a brilliant individual display by rounding off the scoring eight minutes from time.

Scotland’s hopes of qualification were already realistically dependant on winning a playoff, earned via the Nations League, in March and a fourth defeat in six games in Group I sees them fall to fifth, nine points behind second-placed Russia.

Belgium, by contrast, continued their 100% record at the top of the group and can mathematically secure their place at Euro 2020 with victory at home to San Marino next month.

Roberto Martinez’s men will be one of the favourites to win the competition as Belgium’s golden generation seek to deliver silverware on their huge potential.

Far tougher tests lie ahead, but the former Everton boss showed no complacency with his team selection by naming his strongest available side.

The gulf in class quickly told, but Scotland boss Steve Clarke will be bitterly disappointed with the generous defending his side could ill afford against the number one ranked team in the world.

Belgium’s opener originated from a Scotland free-kick in a dangerous area, but in a flash Dries Mertens released De Bruyne down the left on the counter-attack and his low cross was swept home by Lukaku for his 32nd goal in his last 30 international appearances.

Clarke was handed the Scotland job in May after making his Kilmarnock side notoriously hard to beat during two seasons in charge.

scotland-belgium-euro-2020-soccer De Bruyne starred for Belgium. Source: AP/PA Images

That defensive resolve has so far been found wanting at the step up to international level as Belgium extended their lead thanks to slack marking at corners.

Firstly, De Bruyne’s wicked low cross was turned home by Vermaelen.

And eight minutes later Alderweireld was afforded a free header from De Bruyne’s deliver to head in off the underside of the bar.

Belgium showed some measure of mercy on their embarrassed hosts after the break.

David Marshall still needed to make a finger tip save to deny Mertens with a curling effort that was destined for the top corner, while De Bruyne was uncharacteristically wasteful with a shot wide from the edge of the area.

But De Bruyne did not waste a second chance as he curled into the far corner for the goal his performance merited.

Belgium could be back at Hampden next year as the home of Scottish football will host three group games and a last 16 encounter at Euro 2020.

However, hope that Clarke could lead Scotland to a first major tournament in 22 years on home soil is already fading just four matches into his reign.

 - © AFP 2019 

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