Belgium hammered the final nail into Egypt’s halting World Cup warm-up campaign with an assured 3-0 win in Brussels on Wednesday that settled some nerves among the fancied hosts, who lacked injured defensive linchpin Vincent Kompany.
Sticking with a three-man defense, England’s group-stage opponents Belgium showed more cutting edge up front than in their goalless outing at home on Saturday against Portugal.
Romelu Lukaku, favored as starting striker over Michy Batshuayi, thumped home from close range in the 27th minute when Egypt’s 45-year-old keeper Essam El-Hadary spilled from Eden Hazard.
Chelsea midfielder Hazard then made it 2-0 11 minutes later after Yannick Carrasco cut the ball back from the goal line.
Batshuayi, on for Lukaku, set up Marouane Fellaini for a final flourish in stoppage time to complete a sixth straight game without a win for Egypt.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez hailed improvements in his side’s “togetherness” as well as their attacking performance.
The Spaniard had raised eyebrows by slotting Laurent Ciman into skipper Kompany’s number four shirt and keeping him on for 90 minutes. Ciman is officially only on the waiting list for Russia in case the Manchester City man or Barcelona’s Thomas Vermaelen are still injured.
“If those players are not in the squad, Laurent will be a straight replacement,” Martinez said, describing Ciman as a good fit for either injured defender.
He insisted he was still giving Kompany and Vermaelen, who are training with the squad, time to prove their fitness and said there could also be roles for Dedryck Boyata and Leander Dendoncker, depending on the opposition.
Belgium will complete their warm-up fixtures with another home tie, against Costa Rica, next Monday after which Martinez must decide on his final 23-man squad for Russia.
Egypt, missing injured Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah, rarely troubled Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois, although midfielder Trezeguet forced Courtois into a save a minute after coming on for Marwan Mohsen in the second half.
Egypt begin their World Cup campaign against Uruguay in Russia next Friday.
Source: Alastair Macdonald|| Reuters