Belgium showed flashes of its attacking prowess Wednesday (Jun 6) , beating Egypt 3-0 in a World Cup warmup with the help of goals from Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard in a dominant first half. Substitute Marouane Fellaini swept home from close range in injury time to complete the scoring.
Egypt, held goalless for the second time in three matches, showed how much it misses the injured Mohamed Salah. Driven forward by the speed and insight of Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium was up 2-0 at halftime before losing some fluency amid a flurry of substitutions after the break.
“I don’t think our performance was perfect, far from it,” said Belgium coach Roberto Martinez. “There are many aspects that we need to improve. But what I like is that when we make mistakes we’ve got the togetherness to try to overcome them and I don’t think we had that before and that’s very pleasing.”
Salah, Egypt’s great scoring hope for the World Cup, is still recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered in the Champions League final as Liverpool lost 3-1 to Real Madrid. The Premier League’s top scorer has been named in Egypt’s squad for the tournament in Russia and coach Hector Cuper badly needs him.
“Mohamed Salah is not just a good player, he’s an outstanding footballer, he’s a world class footballer after what he’s done this season,” Martinez said. “So any team is going to miss the goal scoring threat of Salah. We all wish him a speedy recovery and we want to see him in the World Cup.”
Egypt should have taken the lead in the 23rd minute when Mohamed Abdelshafy swung in an enticing cross from the left, but Marwan Mohsen, unmarked in the middle, headed wide a chance Salah likely would have scored.
The move didn’t only highlight the forward’s absence for Egypt; the space Mohsen found also underscored how Belgium could miss center back Vincent Kompany if he is not fit to play in Russia. Kompany injured his groin on Saturday during Belgium’s lackluster 0-0 draw with Portugal. Coach Roberto Martinez named defender Laurent Ciman as a replacement if Kompany is not fit to play in Russia.
If Lukaku and Hazard are in top form in Russia, Belgium might not miss Kompany too badly.
Hazard drove a low shot in the 27th minute that Egypt goalkeeper Essam el-Hadary couldn’t hold and Lukaku pounced on the rebound to fire in from close range.
Hazard added his name to the score sheet in the 38th minute, blasting a shot high and hard past el-Hadary after Yannick Carrasco had cut back the ball from the left.
Martinez rested Lukaku and Hazard for the second half, giving Michy Batshuayi and Adnan Januzaj a chance to play themselves into favor.
Batshuayi set up Fellaini’s goal by beating an Egypt defender and cutting back the ball.
The defeat was Egypt’s final warmup before Russia, while Belgium plays Costa Rica on Monday. One positive for Egypt coach Cuper was that midfielder Mohamed Elneny returned from injury and lasted the full 90 minutes.
Martinez said his team needs the final tune-up. “I don’t think we are physically, tactically and mentally ready … and that’s why the Costa Rica game will be important,” he said.
Egypt opens its World Cup campaign in Russia against Uruguay on Jun 15. Belgium’s first Group G match is against Panama on Jun 18.
– Source: News agencies