Belgium, Netherlands hit four as Germany edge closer to Euros
Paris (AFP) – Belgium and the Netherlands both cruised to 4-0 wins over Scotland and Estonia respectively in Euro 2020 qualifying on Monday, while Germany claimed a crucial victory over Northern Ireland in their bid to qualify for next year’s finals.
Roberto Martinez’s Belgium, the world-number-one ranked side, were not at their best but still swatted aside a poor Scotland outfit at Hampden Park to make it six wins from as many matches in Group I.
Defenders Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld ended the game as a contest with less than 32 minutes on the clock.
Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who had assisted each of the first three goals, completed the scoring himself with eight minutes remaining.
“It was not a world-class performance, we just did what we had to do,” said Belgium captain De Bruyne.
“We had a tough start but after our first goal, we had more control and Scotland did not get many chances.”
Belgium, who finished third at last year’s World Cup, are now 11 points clear of third-placed Kazakhstan at the summit of their group with the top two automatically qualifying and only four games to play.
“We knew that with a win we would almost certainly qualify, and that is most important,” added De Bruyne.
Russia remain in pole position to progress from Group I with Belgium, after Mario Fernandes’ 89th-minute winner sealed a 1-0 win over Kazakhstan which moved Stanislav Cherchesov’s men eight points ahead of their beaten opponents.
– Dutch double for Babel –
The Netherlands backed up their stunning 4-2 win over Germany in Hamburg last Friday by thrashing Estonia in Tallinn, as Ryan Babel scored his maiden international double.
Memphis Depay, making his 50th Netherlands appearance, grabbed the third goal, with Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum also finding the net.
Ronald Koeman’s side still have work to do to reach a first major finals since making the 2014 World Cup semi-finals, though, as they trail second-placed Northern Ireland by three points in Group C, albeit with a game in hand.
The Euro 1988 winners next host the Northern Irish on October 10 in a crucial encounter.
“I’m no longer one of the younger players in the team, so I try to compensate for the loss of speed by using my experience,” the 32-year-old Babel told NOS TV.