Belgium give Germany a friendly lesson in performance revitalisation

By Samindra Kunti in Cologne

March 29 – It’s rare for Germany to be schooled on home soil, but on Tuesday night a barnstorming Belgium did just that with an impressive 3-2 friendly win, a result that handed Germany a reality check on the road to Euro 2024. 

The hosts were on the canvas within ten minutes following incisive Belgian attacks on the left channel, exposing full-back Marius Wolf. Both Yannick Carrasco and Romelu Lukaku had ample time to pick their spot and score. It was Lukaku’s fourth goal in two games and Belgium’s fifth in under 100 minutes under new coach Domenico Tedesco.

Clean through Dodi Lukebakio dawdled on the ball and Lukaku’s header cannoned off the woodwork. Germany were simply all over the place against a rampant Belgium.

“It was a fantastic match,” said Tedesco. “Even though we should have killed the match in the first half. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. But we played football with guts and based on our own qualities. We showed courage. Our intention was ‘to shock Germany’. To put pressure on them quickly.”

With Emre Can and Felix Nmecha in after 32 minutes, German coach Hansi Flick altered his XI, but it helped little as Germany laboured, only to get back into the match through a spot-kick conversion by Niclas Fullkrug, his sixth goal in as many games for Germany.

The home team took command and a Timo Werner goal was ruled out for offside. Less energetic and dropping deep to defend, the Belgians struggled to get out of their own half, but ultimately Flick’s men lacked ideas in the final third.

It was Kevin De Bruyne who decided the match at the other end with a cool finish following another sweeping Belgian move on the left, 3-1. A late German flourish and goal by Serge Gnabry from close range were not enough to rescue a draw.

It was Belgium’s first victory over Germany since 1954 and their first win on German soil in 113 years. Flick’s team were given a reality check after their 2-0 win against Peru at the weekend.

“We showed a good side of our game,” said striker Fullkrug. “We were up against it and showed morale. Unfortunately, we weren’t rewarded in the end, we played against a good team. In the first half, we lacked the verticality to hold the ball up front. But we still got opportunities against a top team.”

The Germans have a lot of work to do ahead of next summer’s European championship at home. They promise a great tournament but will need to improve on the pitch to play any role of significance.

Next stop in the rebuild: Bremen in June against Ukraine for the country’s 1,000th match.

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