Belgium cruise past Scotland, close in on Euro 2020 qualification
Glasgow (AFP) – Belgium moved to the brink of sealing their place in next year’s European championships with a 4-0 demolition of Scotland at Hampden on Monday.
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 in Group I, nine points behind second-placed Russia.
Belgium, by contrast, continued their 100 percent 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.
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 embarrased 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.