Belgium 2-0 Romania: Tedesco’s Squad Shuts Down Critics with De Bruyne Goal

Belgium 2-0 Romania: Tedesco’s Squad Shuts Down Critics with De Bruyne Goal

The Belgians are back in the game. After a false start to Euro 2024 they burst into life with a goal by Youri Tielemans in 73 seconds to rock Romania and a second-half display of vintage Kevin de Bruyne.

Fast and furious, they dominated for long spells with De Bruyne the creative heartbeat and scorer of the crucial second in the 80th minute, an emphatic answer to the question of whether he was still able to dictate a game at this level.

Belgium really ought to have won more comfortably and yet they remain fragile. Wasteful in front of goal and often vulnerable at the back, and Romelu Lukaku continued to lose his personal battle with the invisible forces in the VAR booth.

Lukaku thought he had made it 2-0 in the 64th minute, racing clear onto a pass by De Bruyne, only to find the goal ruled out for offside, just like his two in the defeat by Slovakia.

It would have made the final phase of the game a good deal less stressful for Domenico Tedesco and his team ranked third in the world by FIFA.

Youri Tielemans opened the scoring after 72 seconds to infuse Belgium with fresh optimism

Kevin De Bruyne - often accused of going missing on the international stage - stepped up with a goal to seal the three points

Kevin De Bruyne – often accused of going missing on the international stage – stepped up with a goal to seal the three points 

Instead, they traded punches with Romania even beyond De Bruyne’s strike but hung on for victory which leaves all four teams in Group E on the same points going into the final set of fixtures.

Three is the magic number as Belgium take on Ukraine and Romania face Slovakia.

MATCH FACTS 

Belgium 4231: Casteels 6.5; Castagne 6.5, Faes 6, Vertonghen 6, Theate 6.5 (Debast 77); Tielemans 7.5 (Mangala 72), Onana 7; Lukebakio 6.5 (Trossard 56, 6.5), De Bruyne 9, Doku 7 (Carrasco 72); Lukaku 7.5

Goals: Tielemans 2, Lukaku 64,

Bookings: Lukebakio

Manager: Domenico Tedesco 7

Romania 4141: Nita 7; Ratiu 5(Sorescu 90), Dragusin 7, Burca 6.5, Bancu 5.5; M.Marin 5 (olaru 68); Man 7, R.Marin 5.5, Stanciu 5, Mihaila 6 (Hagi 68); Dragus 5 (Alibec 81)

Goals: N/A

Bookings: Bancu, M.Marin

Manager: Edward Iodarnescu 6

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Belgium’s shock defeat against Slovakia invited the sort of pressure they could do without so early in the tournament. Tedesco’s response was to make four changes, among them a recall for 37-year-old Jan Vertonghen, winning his 155th cap.

More importantly they came out at full throttle, bristling with energy and intent, hustling Romania and committing players forward.

Their reward was the early goal by Tielemans, another back in the team after being left out of the opener. It was a sweet, first-time strike by the Aston Villa midfielder, fizzed low past goalkeeper Florin Nita from just outside the penalty box after fabulous approach play by Jeremy Doku on the left and a lay-off by Romelu Lukaku.

Tottenham’s Radu Dragusin forced a save from Koen Casteels as Romania tried to hit back quickly but they struggled to assert any control. Belgium, with Kevin de Bruyne influential, poured forward and peppered Nita’s goal.

Dragusin hurled himself across the turf to block one shot on the turn by Lukaku. Nita saved another from Dodi Lukebakio after a flash of classic De Bruyne, who skipped past challenges as he carved a path down the centre of the pitch. Vertonghen blazed wide from a corner. Lukebakio blazed over.

Twenty thousand Romanians in the stands tried to lift their team. They knew a point would virtually book them into the last 16 of a major tournament for the first time since Euro 2000, when they beat Kevin Keegan’s England to get out of the group.

That would give manager Edward Iordanescu the sort of legendary status to rival his father Anghel who led the nation, then inspired by the brilliance of Gheorghe Hagi, to the World Cup quarter finals in 1994.

Belgium invited pressure by losing to Slovakia but burst into life here against Romania

Belgium invited pressure by losing to Slovakia but burst into life here against Romania 

Jan Vertonghen won his 155th cap at the age of 37 at the back, keeping a clean sheet

Jan Vertonghen won his 155th cap at the age of 37 at the back, keeping a clean sheet

If Edward Iordanescu can lead Romania to the last 16 he would acquire legendary status

If Edward Iordanescu can lead Romania to the last 16 he would acquire legendary status 

Hagi, whose son Ianis was among the substitutes, was in Cologne to offer his support and, as half time approached and Belgium’s energy levels faded Romania found more time on the ball, and drew some of the sting from the game while probing at the Belgian defence.

Casteels saved from Dennis Man and had to be alert to dash from his goal to deny first Denis Dragus and then Valentin Mihaila, but the more they risked in attack the more freely De Bruyne and his pacy wingers cut through on the counterattack.

Romania regrouped during the interval and were far more composed in the second half. Man tested Casteels again with a fierce drive as cut in from the right and Mihaila burst clear through the centre only for a poor touch to send him wide and his shot at goal flew well over.

It was much more of an even contest. De Bruyne started to find his range as the spaces opened. First, only inches wide with a curler from distance. Then, a low shot saved and a cross almost finding Doku at the back post.

When he released Lukaku to score in the 64th minute, relief washed around the Belgian ranks. They did not seem to anticipate the VAR check, which went against him again, somewhat inevitably. Fans groaned when the graphic flashed up on the big screen and showed just how tight the call was.

Lukaku was agog on the Rhine until the second goal, a long route-one kick launched down the centre by Casteels, misjudged by in the air by Andrei Burca and De Bruyne held off the challenge of Dragusin as he scored his 28th international goal. He is not done yet. Neither are Belgium.

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