The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is one to forget for European powerhouses in football like Germany and Belgium; Die Mannschaft and Die Roten Teufel suffered early-round exits in the group stage, after winning only one out of their three group fixtures in Groups E and F respectively. Many things have changed since the quadrennial tournament in the Middle-East State, such as Hansi Flick’s decisions to not include some of the senior German members in the current and next international breaks as well as the appointment of Domenico Tedesco as the new head coach of the Red Devils.
With new undertakings involved, both teams squared off in a friendly match that saw a five-goal thriller at RheinEnergieStadion last Tuesday.
De Bruyne Starred with a Goal and Two Assists
Tedesco’s reign as the new Belgium manager got off to a great start, after the country’s all-time top scorer Romelu Lukaku bagged a hat-trick against Sweden in the opening match of the 2024 UEFA Euro Qualifiers a few days earlier. The win prompted the young head coach to make only two changes to his starting 11, with Koen Casteels and Orel Mangala replacing Thibaut Courtois and Leandro Trossard in this international friendly. Hansi Flick, on the other hand, opted for a different approach to this new calendar year, by bringing in young talents in this international break; Notable absentees from this German squad included Thomas Müller, Antonio Rüdiger, Leroy Sané, İlkay Gündoğan, etc.
31-year-old De Bruyne, who assumed the official captaincy of the Belgium national team, following the international retirement of Eden Hazard, was the provider for the team’s first goal of the evening. His through ball unleashed winger Yannick Carrasco, who then rounded Marius Wolf to smash home his ninth goal for his country. Three minutes later, the Manchester City midfielder intelligently sliced through the German defence and found Lukaku with his pass. The Inter Milan forward extended his international tally to 72 goals with his subsequent effort.
Belgium had multiple opportunities to further its lead in the game, including a one-on-one chance from Dodi Lukebakio and a header by Lukaku which was met by the bar. The home side punished its visitors for the missed opportunities and pulled one back from the spot a minute before the first added time, after Lukaku was penalised for handball in the penalty box. Werder Bremen strike Niclas Füllkrug sent the goalkeeper to the wrong way by hitting the ball into the bottom left corner.
1️⃣⚽️➕ 2️⃣🅰️ for 👑 KDB pic.twitter.com/Y6dWfkMcZ2
— 433 (@433) March 28, 2023
Devils Shrugging Off World Cup Disappointments
The second half was a lot tighter than it was in the opening 45 minutes, but even that cannot prevent Belgium to restore their two-goal cushion in the game. A devastating counterattack witnessed Trossard deliver a cross for his skipper to score, and De Bruyne did not miss the chance to open his scoring as the official captain of the Red Devils. The Germans once again rallied themselves back into the game and got a goal back, courtesy of Serge Gnabry. The Bayern Munich winger’s effort came a little too late for the home side, as Hansi Flick’s squad had to settle for a loss in its first game after the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
De Bruyne: “It’s Fun to Play Like This, Fun for Everyone.”
De Bruyne, who captained Belgium for the second consecutive game, cannot hide his jubilance over his nation’s victory against four-time world champion Germany. “It was a nice match. The first 30 minutes were very good, full of effort. It’s good to see that we can be so good. After that it was a bit more difficult, but it is logical that you also get into trouble against a team like Germany. The last quarter of an hour was hard, but it is good to see that this team can do that too. The combinations were there, defensively it was also pretty good. There were many positives. It’s fun to play like this, fun for everyone. Not only with the ball, also defensively. We try to put pressure on quickly and win the ball quickly” was his response.
Elsewhere in South America, Argentina won their second straight game as the world champion, with Lionel Messi breaking the 100-goal mark at international level and scoring a first-half hat-trick in La Albiceleste’s 7-0 trashing over Curaçao.