COLOGNE — A goal and two assists from Kevin De Bruyne lifted Belgium past struggling Euro 2024 hosts Germany, winning 3-2 in a friendly in Cologne yesterday.
De Bruyne set up two goals to give his side a 2-0 lead inside 10 minutes, before scoring one of his own late in the second to deepen Germany’s woes ahead of next year’s European Championship on home soil.
“Independent of the result, it is important how we perform in these friendly games,” said new Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco.
“It’s not easy to play here… the German team have some really good players.”
Germany were hoping to find some form after recent uncharacteristic early exits from major tournaments, but lost to Belgium for the first time since 1954.
“We were too restrained, too passive, and we weren’t able to put the opponent under pressure,” Germany coach Hansi Flick told TV network RTL, saying “Belgium played mercilessly”.
The four-time world champions suffered a second successive World Cup group-stage exit in Qatar last year, which followed a last-16 loss to England at Euro 2020.
Belgium’s German-raised coach Tedesco pushed Yannick Carrasco up front in place of Arsenal’s Leandro Trossard and the move paid immediate dividends, with the Atletico Madrid winger blasting in on the counter just six minutes in.
Romelu Lukaku, scorer of all three goals in Belgium’s 3-0 romp against Sweden in Euro qualifying on Friday, then smashed in a left-footed effort to double the lead, the goal again assisted by De Bruyne.
With three first-choice central defenders out, a rattled Germany looked all but certain to concede a third.
The introduction of Emre Can, who replaced the injured Leon Goretzka midway through the first half, brought the home side some desperately needed stability.
Germany were on the board soon after when Niclas Fuellkrug converted a penalty awarded for a Lukaku handball, giving the late-blooming Werder Bremen striker his sixth goal in six international appearances.
Belgium’s incisiveness eluded them in the second half as Germany pushed for an equaliser but they were unable to break through, coming closest when Timo Werner had a goal chalked off for offside.
“The first 30 minutes were terrible — for the first 15 we weren’t on the pitch at all,” said Germany captain Joshua Kimmich.
“But the second half was definitely better, how we imagined it pre-match.”
De Bruyne sealed the win with just over 10 minutes remaining with a one-touch finish assisted by Trossard to complete a memorable captain’s performance.
Serge Gnabry gave Germany hope of a draw when he scored with three minutes remaining but the visitors held on for a morale boosting win. — AFP