Tunisia Pay the Price for Costly Errors Against Rampant Belgium

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MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 23: Romelu Lukaku of Belgium celebrates scoring his first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group G match between Belgium and Tunisia at Spartak Stadium on June 23, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Belgium romped to a 5-2 success in their Group G clash against Tunisia. Braces from Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard as well as a late Michy Batshuayi goal cancelled out Dylan Bronn and Wahbi Khazri’s strikes as they all but sealed qualification to the Round of 16 for the second successive finals. In a dominant performance, they impressed before the big clash with England, however, there were still a few concerns facing them. They were smooth, efficient and effective, taking advantage of the Tunisian sloppiness in an exciting display.

Tunisia Pay the Price for Costly Errors

Contrastingly, despite scoring twice, Tunisia could’ve done much better but made too many costly errors. Too often they gave the ball away in simple situations – and they resulted in early setbacks. After an encouraging defensive showing against England, they failed to build on it and are forced to go back home. From Belgium’s perspective, there are still factors that need to be worked on. They will, however, be motivated greatly by their start to this World Cup, where they have won two matches out of two in quite convincing fashion.

Impressive Attacking Force

Belgium are the joint top-scorers of the tournament with eight goals, and Romelu Lukaku has been great for them. He is the joint top-scorer along with Cristiano Ronaldo with four.  Lukaku is an improved finisher and helped by the presence of Thierry Henry in the Belgian coaching staff. The second goal today is an example of his growth. A deft dink over Farouk Ben Mustapha shows confidence that has shot up over the past year. His movement is smart, he’s using his strengths to the maximum and could well finish as the Golden Boot winner.

Other than that, the wing-backs, Thomas Meunier and Yannick Carrasco, have been crucial. Meunier’s creativity and link-up play was key to all of Belgium’s attacks, while Carrasco has formed a dangerous partnership with Hazard down the left side. They stretched a meagre Tunisian defence and created spaces to exploit for the dangerous attackers. However, questions are raised about their positioning. Carrasco played much of the game in the opposition half, hardly defending and being caught off-guard for the second Tunisian goal – he will be a major area of exploitation against England, especially considering how impressive Kieran Trippier was in the first game.

The midfield of Axel Witsel and Kevin de Bruyne has also been effective. The latter is strangely given extra defensive responsibilities but does them well and of course, does what he does best in attack frequently – which is to create chances and run at the defence. Against Tunisia, he was quiet initially but grew into the game in the second half. Witsel was the defensive-minded midfielder. He ended the game with the most tackles for a Belgian player and was solid throughout.

Tunisian Sloppiness

Much was expected from Tunisia after the clash with England, where they took the Three Lions right to the death. However, this Tunisian display was disjointed, lacked cohesion and they paid the price for it. Despite having more of the possession, they were sloppy with it and their errors led to goals. The first was a silly penalty given away for a ridiculous barge into Eden Hazard, and the second loose pass led to Hazard creating Lukaku’s first goal.

Ali Maaloul in particular, the left-back, struggled with the speed and creativity of Dries Mertens and Meunier. He was greatly exposed on almost all Belgian counter-attacks and even committed the error that led to Lukaku’s first. In a tiring showing, he was hardly able to tackle, was mostly second to the loose ball and barely made an impact for Tunisia on either side of the pitch. To his defence, the entire side’s sloppiness was evident, but he was most troubled by the threat Belgium possessed.

Wahbi Khazri can go home with his head held high. He was decent against England and was great once again today against Belgium. In an all-round attacking display, the forward linked-up well with the rest of his team-mates. He even got a deserved goal to his name – a well-finished shot after receiving a cross from the right. In a game where his teammates gave the ball away and could hardly keep up with the Belgian talent, the captain was a shining light.

 Belgium Yet to Challenge the Top Tier

Since Roberto Martínez took over this Belgium team, they’ve hardly faced the top tier international sides. Bar Spain and most recently Portugal, most of the teams they’ve faced so far have been, with all due respect, the lesser nations, mostly in qualifiers. The match against England will be the first real test to see where they stand. Having been criticised for having all the talent, but not using it to full effect, Belgium can turn over some doubters if they do well in Kaliningrad.

They have a problem with the wing-backs, however. The high position taken up by Carrasco and Meunier was exposed against Tunisia, and Trippier and Young could have a field day against them. Furthermore, another concern with them has been their defending of set-pieces. The first Tunisian goal came as a result of a poorly-defended free-kick, and with the aerial prowess of England, with players such as Harry Kane, John Stones and Harry Maguire, amongst others, they will be troubled. Also, England will have an advantage should Vincent Kompany not make it back in time. That prospect seems likely, and Dedryck Boyata hasn’t looked comfortable so far in this World Cup.

The match against England will, essentially, decide who gets the top spot in Group G. Belgium look fiery, but they’ve barely been tested, while England are motivated. Their first challenge will tell if Belgium are up for the task, or are only flattering to deceive.

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