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Early Argentina, Dutch survive

Five Aside Jul 5, 2014
Read
 Posted by Wim van Walle
Jun 7, 2014

Belgium win final friendly test

Crazy hail temporarily suspended the international friendly between Belgium and Tunisia.

After Belgium's 1-0 friendly win against Tunisia -- their last on home soil before leaving for Brazil -- there isn't much to say.

Belgium started well, monopolised the ball and created a few minor chances for Kevin Mirallas, Vincent Kompany and Divock Origi. The game was then suspended for 45 minutes after a hailstorm passed over Brussels, bombarding the pitch with pellets the size of golf balls.

BelgiumBelgium
TunisiaTunisia
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When the players finally did come back onto the pitch, no one seemed very much in the mood to play football and the rest of the game was played at walking pace. Tunisia didn't help, keeping nine or ten men behind the ball for most of the time.

In the final 10 minutes, with Tunisia down to ten men, Belgium finally started to play some good football. A couple of very good chances were narrowly missed before Dries Mertens finally scored to make it 1-0 in the 88th minute.

So what have we learned? Not much. We saw again that Belgium can play out a game in which they dominate but fail to get the goal. They can be patient and still win. Three years ago these young players would have panicked and possibly lost the game but they have learned to trust in their ability and to believe that if they just stay organised and focused, they will get their result.

But we already knew that -- they showed this in the first qualification game, eventually beating Wales 2-0. What Red Devils fans can probably take our of the matach is that both Divock Origi and Adnan Januzaj are great options for the future.

From the outset Origi played well. His off the ball movement is excellent, he is strong and pacey and has the confidence to try for goal whenever possible.

Later, Adnan Januzaj brought some much-needed energy to the game when he came on. Tellingly, his first touch was a shot on goal. Januzaj has tons of flair and technique, and is a joy to watch. He produced some dangerous crosses again and regularly drifted inside from his left flank, confusing the Tunisian defence. He will certainly be an extra weapon in Belgium's arsenal.

The Belgian players celebrate with Dries Mertens, who scored the only goal in a game more notable for the weather conditions.

All in all, it was a game that could as well not have been played. If it had been terminated after the hail break, with the benefit of hindsight, not many people would have been overly bothered.

Vincent Kompany said after the game that they wanted to continue for the fans. The match was another sell-out and the Red Devils have built up an strong bond with their fans. Marc Wilmots was short about the game: "It was hard to play against an opponent who kept nine players behind the ball. With Mertens' goal, we feel good in the end. This was a good test for the World Cup and the game against Algeria, even if they have more talent going forward."

And winning all three preparatory games will certainly be a boost for confidence and belief. Even more important is the fact that Belgium can fly to Brazil with their squad as good as unharmed. Looking at the number of high-profile players who have recently dropped out with injuries, Belgium can count themselves lucky.

Or can they? There was one worry for Belgium late in the game. When Romelu Lukaku's shot inside the box was blocked, he got up slowly and continued to limp slightly until Axel Witsel came on to replace him.

Wilmots said the injury doesn't look too bad: "For now it looks like a severe sprain, but of course there will be further tests tomorrow. As it looks now, Romelu will be out for three or four days. Let's hope it stays that way."

Let's hope so, indeed. The only position in which Belgium lack real strength in depth is up front. Having already lost Christian Benteke, it would be disastrous for Belgium should Lukaku be forced out, especially given his form and confidence of late. It will be some days of nail-biting while Belgium waits to see what the doctors say.