Belgium Continue Undefeated Qualification Campaign to Secure 2018 World Cup Spot
Romelu Lukaku’s header in the 74th minute secured a spot in the 2018 World Cup for Belgium, which beat Greece 2–1 on Sunday night.
The win was Belgium’s seventh in eight qualification matches. The only game in qualifying Belgium did not win was a 1–1 draw against Greece in March.
Both teams had plenty of chances in the early going but it took until the 70th minute to break the scoreless tie, as Jan Vertonghen unleashed a lightning bolt strike from way outside the box. Greece answered three minutes later with a one-touch finish by Zeca, the former Panathinaikos captain who became a Greek citizen just six months ago.
The game didn’t stay level for long, though. Just one minute after Zeca’s equalizer, Lukaku found the back of the net with a header that proved to be the match-winner.
Belgium has breezed through the qualification process so far after being placed in a weak group that also included Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Estonia and Gibraltar. The pressure will be on manager Roberto Martinez next year in Russia at the World Cup, as he looks to improve upon Belgium’s previous results under Marc Wilmots. The Red Devils advanced to the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup before losing 1–0 to Argentina. Wilmots was let go as manager after Belgium was ousted in the quarters at the European championships last summer.
Elsewhere in qualifying Sunday, Portugal beat a 10-man Hungary by a score of 1–0 and Switzerland handled Latvia 3–0 for their eighth straight qualification victory. The most shocking result of the day was Luxembourg’s 0–0 draw against a full-strength France. The French only needed one point to secure the top spot in their group, fortunately.