Bordeaux (AFP) – Belgium coach Marc Wilmots was delighted with his side’s 3-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2016 on Saturday as they bounced back from their opening loss to Italy.
Widely criticised after losing 2-0 to the Italians in Lyon in their Group E opener, two goals by Romelu Lukaku and one from Axel Witsel saw Belgium hit back.
“It was a totally different context. Ireland adapted their way of playing to try to counter us, so we chose to keep the ball on the ground and develop a rhythm with lots of short passes,” Wilmots said.
“We managed to get in behind them and create spaces thanks to our technical players.
Wilmots added: “I think the strategy was the good one but it was the players who did it and should be congratulated, but we have nothing yet, we have not qualified. We still have to play Sweden.
“It seemed at one point that we weren’t getting the breaks but the players kept going.”
Wilmots was hopeful the injury that forced midfielder Moussa Dembele to go off in the second half was not serious.
“He has a twisted ankle but how long he will be out I can’t say. I hope it’s not too serious,” he said.
Midfielder Witsel, the man-of-the-match, added that Belgium needed to be “patient” after going into the interval at 0-0.
“We created chances in the first half but the ball wouldn’t go in,” he said.
“The key word was patience because we knew as soon as we got the first goal it would liberate us.”
Belgium face Sweden in their last Group E game in Nice next Wednesday needing a point to qualify for the last 16 behind Italy, who are already certain to top the section.
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