Dennis Praet’s first half strike gave Belgium a 1-0 win over Belarus on Wednesday night, moving them an inch closer to World Cup qualification.
Belgium signed off the international break on a winning note by securing a 1-0 win over Belarus. The match was played on a neutral venue in Russia owing to flight restrictions in Belarus.
It was a very professional display from the visitors, who were dominant and controlled large parts of the game. On the half-hour mark, Michy Batshuayi headed the ball into the back of the net after a follow-up from a thunderous long-range shot from defender Boyata rattling the crossbar, but the goal was ruled out due to offside.
Just two minutes later, the deadlock was finally broken, as Dennis Praet sneaked a snapshot past Belarus goalkeeper Sergei Chernik after being set up by a quick pass from Alexis Saelemaekers. The Red Devils did create several half-chances, with striker Batshuayi coming close to scoring a fair few times but were largely lacking that final pass and end product on the day.
The result in Kazan helps Belgium extend their lead on top of Group E in the European leg of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers as they are now sitting at 16 points, firmly 9 points clear of 2nd placed the Czech Republic who have a game in hand. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we look at how the Belgian players fared in their 1-0 win over Belarus this midweek.
Koen Casteels: 6/10
It was a walk in the park for the Wolfsburg shot-stopper who was called in to replace Thibaut Courtois. Casteels had absolutely nothing to do as Belarus only attempted four shots on goal, only two of which were on target and were quite comfortably saved by him.
Toby Alderweireld: 7.5/10
Another decent outing for the former Tottenham man, who was playing out from the back, with some of his long passes being quite pleasing on the eye. A complete performance wherein he attempted 123 passes with 92.7% accuracy – the highest on the pitch – in addition to completing two tackles, one interception, four clearances. Also lobbed in with four crosses and six accurate long balls.
Jason Denayer: 6.5/10
Denayer was rarely called into action by the Belarusian attackers. He pushed high up the pitch to maintain the high line and was caught out of position once.
Dendryck Boyata: 7.5/10
Boyata put up a solid performance at the heart of Belgium’s defence. He also had a fair crack at goal when his fierce strike rattled off the crossbar. He used his strength to impose himself against Belarus’ forwards. He also completed four accurate long balls.
Alexis Saelemaekers: 7.5/10
Saelemaekers was awarded a start after scoring his first-ever international goal in the last game, and he did not disappoint. He was lively on that left flank, and mostly drifted towards the central areas to create an opening and was rewarded with a deserved assist. He set up Dennis Praet with a crafty short pass. He also completed six tackles – the highest on the pitch.
Timothy Castagne: 7/10
Castagne produced the goods on the defensive side; he also bombed the flank but was unsuccessful with his runs. Still, he put in the most accurate crosses on the pitch with two.
Dennis Praet: 8/10
Praet was ever-present on the pitch, controlling the centre of the park with his work rate, energy, and inventiveness. He was the real protagonist and progressed the ball well while completing two successful dribbles and scoring the all-important goal with an exquisite finish.
Dennis Praet has scored away from home for the first time since March 2019.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 8, 2021
Youri Tielemans: 8/10
Another productive outing for the Leicester City playmaker in the middle, but he dropped back to provide his defence with the screening while playing those delightful through ball and chips. He tallied five tackles, two interceptions and one clearance which is a testament to his solid defensive showing on the night.
Leandro Trossard: 6/10
The Brighton winger had a poor game and was very anonymous on the right wing. He was given little space by Nikolay Zolotov, which worked against him. He completed two dribbles but a very unproductive outing from Trossard.
Michy Batshuayi: 6.5/10
Michy Batshuayi was given the nod ahead of Christian Benteke, and he was largely misfiring on the day. He did put the ball into the back of the net but was adjudged as offside, resulting in the goal being chalked off. He missed a couple of glorious opportunities to seal the game for his side. In all, he took four shots, out of which two were on target.
Dodi Lukebakio: 7/10
The youngster had a decent game after being deployed on the left wing. Lukebakio made two key passes, and his set-piece deliveries were threatening. He attempted six crosses, but only one of them was accurate. He looks like a real talent in the makings if his development continues.
Eden Hazard: 7/10
Eden Hazard showed some flashes of brilliance; he looked fit but came on the hour mark and forced a fine save out of Chernick with a decent free-kick four minutes from time.
Christian Benteke: 5/10
Came off the bench in the 75th minute to replace Lukebakio. He was ineffective and poor at holding onto the ball.
Thomas Foket: N/A
Did not play enough to warrant a rating
Leander Dendoncker: N/A
Did not play enough to warrant a rating