Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium Crush Scotland in Euro 2020 Qualifying | Bleacher Report
Scott Heppell/Associated Press
Scotland slipped to a damaging defeat in the qualification campaign for UEFA Euro 2020 after a 4-0 result to Belgium on Monday.
Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne provided three assists, creating goals for Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld, before scoring himself late on at Glasgow’s Hampden Park.
The Scots trail second-place Russia in Group I and are in danger of missing out on automatic qualification for next summer’s tournament. By contrast, the Red Devils already look like a lock to qualify after winning for the sixth time in as many matches.
De Bruyne’s first assist came in the ninth minute when he played a low cross into the path of Lukaku. The Inter striker made no mistake from close range to cap a swift break.
The midfielder proved pivotal 15 minutes later, teasing a free-kick into the path of Vermaelen. The former Arsenal and Barcelona centre-back has always had a knack for scoring, and he converted well on the turn in the box.
The 28-year-old De Bruyne continued his creative masterclass eight minutes later with a well-placed corner that Tottenham defender Alderweireld headed in. There was no doubt De Bruyne had carried over his exceptional form from club level:
There was no shortage of space for De Bruyne and Leicester City schemer Youri Tielemans in the middle of the park. Napoli forward Dries Mertens, who combined brilliantly with De Bruyne in the buildup to the opening goal, was also causing havoc with his well-timed runs from outside to inside.
Scotland weren’t getting close enough to Belgium’s primary flair players:
It also didn’t help the hosts lacked enough ingenuity of their own to take the game to the Red Devils. Manager Steve Clarke was missing some key players in the final third, notably Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser, but replacements like West Ham United’s Robert Snodgrass weren’t doing enough to impose themselves in possession.
Owning such a healthy lead, Belgium understandably became a little sluggish with their passing after the break. De Bruyne’s desire to turn almost every pass into an assist resulted in a few turnovers in possession, but the Scots rarely showed enough daring or ingenuity to take advantage.
One slick combination between De Bruyne and the enterprising Mertens should have resulted in a goal for the former. De Bruyne eventually got the goal his performance merited when he profited from a selfless pass from Lukaku.
Scotland lacked the fight shown during Friday’s 2-1 home defeat to Russia. It’s a worrying sign for Clarke, whose squad is devoid of the quality needed to credibly compete at this level.
As for Belgium, manager Roberto Martinez knows he has in De Bruyne the radar and skill to make his progressive tactics work on a bigger stage.
Scotland face second-place Russia in Moscow on October 10, while Belgium host San Marino on the same day.