Paris (AFP) – Belgium tore Poland apart to win their Nations League match 6-1 in Brussels on Wednesday.
Belgium lost their opening game to neighbours Netherlands but responded with an increasingly dominant performance and finished the game with five goals in just over 30 minutes.
“It brings extra emotion when you lose against your rivals so that was definitely a motivator tonight,” said Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.
“Against The Netherlands we were passive, waiting, insecure. Now we were a team instead of individuals.”
Belgium suffered another early setback on Wednesday as the visitors took the lead after 28 minutes as star striker Robert Lewandowski struck with his 22nd goal for club and country in 2022.
The Bayern Munich attacker controlled a pass from Piotr Zielinski in mid-air and then poked it past the on-rushing Simon Mignolet with the outside of his left boot.
The hosts levelled three minutes before half time.
Kevin de Bruyne cut through the Polish defense. After his drive was parried, Timothy Castagne rolled the ball back to Axel Witsel who swerved a drive inside the post.
Belgium took the lead after 59 minutes on the counter-attack. Captain Eden Hazard found De Bruyne free in the box and he slid a shot past Bartlomiej Dragowski.
Hazard, who struggled with injury at Real Madrid this season and was an unused substitute in the Champions League final, came off after 66 minutes.
“I am extremely happy that I could be important to the team, especially after my season,” he said.
Leandro Trossard replaced Hazard and scored twice in seven minutes.
Defender Leander Dendoncker then struck his first international goal from long range.
Lois Openda, who came off the bench to make his international debut with six minutes left, rounded off the rout in added time.
“It was a match that will give us a lot to think about, a lot of question marks in various parts of our game plan and overall strategy, but also a lesson on how to play against such teams,” said Liewandowski.
Belgium, who lost their Group 4 opener to the Netherlands, sit second behind their neighbours and ahead of Poland on goal difference.
“Nobody should be worried about the future of Belgian football. We have immense talent but we have to be patient,” said Martinez. “We finally have the structure in place. The rest will follow, but the talent is definitely there.”
In the World Cup in Qatar in November, Belgium have been drawn in a group with Canada, Morocco and the 2018 losing finalists Croatia. Poland face Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Argentina.
“I told the players that they should use it as a reminder of how opponents play at the very highest levels in the world,” said Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz.
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