3 Reasons why Belgium were knocked out of Euro 2016
It has almost been a week since this game took place but here is my piece on why Belgium are not playing in today’s semi-finals against Portugal.
Belgium’s run in the tournament came to an end last week as they were knocked out of UEFA EURO 2016 in the quarter-finals by Wales. It was an emphatic 3–1 victory for a Wales side who are playing in their first major tournament in 58 years!
Here are the 3 main reasons why the Belgians had to head home.
1. Quality without results is pointless.
The first 15 minutes of the game, it seemed like Belgium were continuing from where they had left off at Toulouse. After the 4-0 drubbing of the Hungarians in the Round of 16, they had got the party started early on at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy with Nainggolan’s bullet of a strike into the top corner in the 13th minute of the game. The quality of football on display was just too eloquent.
However, as the game progressed, they switched off the lights and passed the game to Wales. Quite literally. Belgium were too focused in building their attacks. They were intent on making it look as beautiful as possible. With a blob of mass upfront by the name of Romelu Lukaku , they were going nowhere with their attacks.
2. Unlucky Belgium.
There is very little one can do if some of the top players in the team are unavailable for a game of this magnitude.
Jan Vertonghen was ruled out with an injury he sustained during the training session 2 days before the game. Having torn ligaments in the ankle, Vertonghen did not have the slightest of chances to make it on to the field.
Thomas Vermaelen was under suspension following his bookings in the previous games.
Moussa Dembélé was already out of action due to an ankle injury he sustained in the game against Republic of Ireland.
Vermaelen and Vertonghen together with their wealth of experience would have provided the much needed solidarity and discipline in defense. Coming on the back of 3 consecutive wins with 3 clean sheets, the absence of this defensive pair was certainly felt.As for Dembélé, his drive and energy in the center of the park would have made him a better option to field than Axel Witsel who had a poor game.
Eventually, Toby Alderweireld had to pair up with a young and inexperienced Jason Denayer in central defence. It was Denayer’s first game of the tournament and it was quite obvious for all to see that the youngster could not handle the expectations. Similarly, Jordan Lukaku, also playing his first game of the tournament was at fault for the Wales equaliser and could not get to grips with their full-backs either. It was certainly a night to forget for the Lukaku brothers.
It was not just the injuries, Belgium were also unlucky with two really poor decisions from the Slovenian referee Skomina. Ben Davies should have been sent off for the foul on Lukaku near the penalty box in the second half. Davies had already received his second yellow of the tournament in this game. Had he been booked for the foul on Lukaku, it would have reduced Wales to 10 men.Also it was quite intriguing to note how the referee thought a 6ft 3in ,
94 kg person would just tumble to the ground all by himself.
And minutes before Wales sealed the game with Vokes’s goal , there was a penalty appeal from Belgium for a foul on Nainggolan by the Wales captain Ashley Williams. It looked like a sure shot penalty given that Williams had clearly treaded on the foot of Nainggolan. Had the referee decided to award a penalty, the result could have been much different.
3. No Plan B.
There seemed to be an obvious tactical failure from Belgium coach Marc Wilmots in not understanding the type of football that Wales would implement. Typical British style is what characterizes them and that is how they won it. Wales scored two of their three goals on the counter. And yes, Witsel , Nainggolan and Fellaini were in the center of the pitch and their defense was at sixes and sevens.
Another point worth mentioning is that when a team is trailing in a must win game and your striker on the field is unwilling to score despite many chances , it is always a safe bet to make attacking changes as early as possible. Mertens and Batshuayi only took to the field in 75th and 83rd minutes respectively .It was too late for them to make any significant impact on the game and the result was there for all to see.
What the Future holds for this team?
3 wins, 2 losses and being in the Quarter Finals is a good run in the tournament for most teams. But the loss against Italy in the first game and the elimination at the hands of Wales indicates that there is a lot left to be desired from this so called ‘Golden Generation’ of Belgium football. Considering this, it would seem to be the right time for the Royal Belgian Football Association to consider the future of Marc Wilmots. Needless to say a team consisting of star quality players needs a world class coach. Wilmots has had his time at the helm and it would be too critical to say he did a bad job. But to take this team to the next level would require a coach of higher standards. Belgium have until the next World Cup to cover up all the patches.
Only time will tell if we will get to witness a more efficient and clinical Red Devils or the same old set of underachievers.