Belgium booked their spot at the 2022 FIFA World Cup with a 3-1 victory over Estonia in Brussels on Saturday.

Belgium grabbed an early lead through Christian Benteke, who was in the right spot to pounce on a horrible goalkeeping mistake to give Belgium. Soon after, Matvei Igonen made amends by spreading himself to tip away Kevin De Bruyne’s superb free-kick onto the crossbar. Benteke could have added more goals before half-time, whilst Eden Hazard also went close.

Just eight minutes into the second half, Belgium doubled their lead with a well-worked goal, with Yannick Carrasco unleashing an unstoppable strike into the top corner from outside the box. With 20 minutes remaining, Estonia, seemingly out of nowhere, cut the deficit to half.

Thibaut Courtois could just faintly parry Rauno Sappinen’s shot, and Erik Sorga tucked in the rebound. Thorgan Hazard put the game out of reach just four minutes from the hour mark when he headed home from close-range. Alexis Saelemaekers hammered a spectacular goal, but it was ruled out for offside.

Roberto Martinez will be more than delighted, as not only did his team qualify for a third World Cup in a row, they have done it in some fashion, scoring 24 goals while conceding only five, with one game still left to play. The Hard Tackle will now run the rule over Martinez’s men after they secured a vital victory to seal the Red Devils’ place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Thibaut Courtois: 6/10

Courtois had little work to do between the sticks, with Estonia posting five shots on target, out of which only a few were decent efforts. He looked shaky at time and was partly culpable for Estonia’s goal as he could only faintly push Rauno Sappinen’s shot, with Erik Sorga slotting home on the rebound.

Timothy Castagne: 6/10

Castagne was operating in an unfamiliar role slotting in the right-hand side of the back-three. He was very ineffective defensively, but the Estonian attackers never tested his positioning. Despite his shortcomings, he made a vital interception to prevent Henri Anier from having a clear run on Courtois.

Jason Denayer: 6/10

Denayer was rarely called on to flex his muscles by Estonia’s forwards. He contributed to Belgium’s high backline, boasting a supreme 99 per cent passing accuracy, complete with 97 passes and three accurate long balls.

Jan Vertonghen: 6/10

Vertonghen was largely untroubled by the weak Estonian’s assaults but led the backline in a commanding fashion. He was strong aerially while also maintaining the tempo with superb distribution.

Thomas Meunier: 7/10

Meunier bombed the flank well, with many of his runs resulting in a cross or a progressive pass. He attempted more crosses on the pitch (three) than any other player while also laying two key passes.

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Axel Witsel: 6/10

The defensive midfielder revolved his game around passing and used it to good effect both in attack and defence. His main job was to recycle the ball, which he did well, completing three successful tackles.

Hans Vanaken: 6/10

The Club Brugge midfielder picked out spatial positions on the pitch but surrendered possession at times. He would be disappointed to not get an effort on target but was intelligent with his link-up play. However, he could not make enough impact in the final third.

Yannick Carrasco: 8/10

Carrasco was lively and completely dominated the left flank with his close control and dribbles. He was a constant menace throughout the game. He scored a beautiful left-footed long range slam of a strike into the top corner to double the advantage for the Red Devils.

Kevin De Bruyne: 8/10

Although De Bruyne has yet to find his usual rhythm for Manchester City so far this campaign, some of his slick passing was scintillating to watch. His sublime 70-yard pass was just the beginning of a wonderful display from the Belgian midfielder.

His magnificent free-kick was parried away onto the post by the Estonian goalkeeper. His underlying numbers were just fascinating – three shots, three key passes, three dribbles. He also completed a match-high eight accurate long balls and bagged a superb assist, setting up a header for Thorgan Hazard on the plate.

Eden Hazard: 7/10

A pleasing display from Eden Hazard, who reminded of his ability by showing flashes of his immense talent. He fluffed his lines with just the goalkeeper to beat after a clever over-the-top pass from Kevin De Bruyne, squandering a golden opportunity. He had two shots on target, four dribbles and one key pass.

Christian Benteke: 8/10

In the absence of Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi, Benteke was handed a rare opportunity to lead the charge and took less than ten minutes to open his account. It was the 30-year-old’s first strike in two years for his country. Keeping aside the few chances he wasted with his poor finishing, the Crystal Palace striker was largely impressive.

He could have easily bagged a hat-trick if he was a little more prolific in front of goal. Overall, he fired six shots, out of which four were on target, finishing with one goal and an assist, while he also struck the woodwork with a smashing header showcasing his destructive aerial prowess.


Thorgan Hazard: 7/10

Thorgan Hazard came on for his brother on the hour mark to put the game beyond Estonia’s reach just four minutes after coming on when he headed into the back of the net, roaming free at the back post following De Bruyne’s cross.

Alexis Saelemaekers: 7/10

Alexis Saelemaekers found the back of the net late in the game with a stunning effort from the outside of his boot, but it was called off due to offside.

Dries Mertens: 6/10

There was a delay before the game as Mertens had a little ceremony on his 100th cap. He came on with Belgium already on top with a two-goal lead. He could not impact the proceedings much and rarely got a kick.

Charles de Ketelaere: N/A

Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

Divock Origi: N/A

Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

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