In a lively night of football, Belgium were held 1-1 by Greece in a pre-Euro 2020 friendly.
For much of the first hour, the match looked like it was going to be the crowning of Yannick Carrasco as Belgium’s new attacking talisman. With Eden Hazard still not ready to play and Kevin De Bruyne nursing a broken face following the Champions League final, the Red Devils were set to head into the tournament with neither star man in even remotely good form.
Obviously star striker Romelu Lukaku is the man of the moment having just led Inter to win Serie A, but he’s a striker that relies on service and the icons who so often provide that service are quite simply not going to be at their best until the knockout round at least and even then who knows. There’s a very real possibility they never see De Bruyne or Eden Hazard in good form this summer.
But is that a problem? Against a Greek side that hadn’t lost in seven, and missing several first-teamers of their own, Belgium did not look like a side missing any star creative players. Goalscoring grit perhaps, but then it’s hard to measure that in friendlies.
Yannick Carrasco and Thorgan Hazard more than took control of the game in attack, however. Playing with real energy as they carried the ball at the Greek back-line and combined nicely with each other.
They created the opening goal together as Hazard picked up a sloppy square ball, charged at the Belgium box and slipped a ball wide to Carrasco. The winger moved calmly towards the loose ball with all the confidence and assurance of a man who has just won La Liga and then effortlessly bent his left-foot around the ball and clipped it back into Hazard who tapped home.
So that was that, right? Those two were the success story of the game as Belgium coast to a comfortable victory, right? Wrong.
Carrasco was definitely brilliant on the night, comfortably taking the role of talisman, but it wasn’t all one-way traffic. In fact without the fear being inflicted by the likes of De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, Greece were ready to counter on Belgium or even take the ball and work it up the field.
In fact the first chance of the game fell to the Greeks, as a wayward back-pass from Toby Alderweireld had Giorgios Masouras running clean through on goal only for Simon Mignolet to pull off a brilliant 1-v-1 stop.
And then as the second-half wore on, Greece got more and more into the game. They showed great confidence running at the sides of the Belgium defence, where Toby Alderweireld and Jason Denayer really seemed to struggle without the protection afforded them by Axel Witsel and the reputation of their star attackers.
Greece’s equaliser was a flukey effort where Georgios Tzavelllas stabbed home following Kiriakos Papadopoulos’ header rebounding off the post. But the goal itself was almost incidental, the fact is that Greece more than engaged Belgium in an open match. They were not overawed and even though the Red Devils had rested players, you would have expected them to dispatch Greece with confidence?
Instead they missed chance after chance and then wilted when Greece applied a modicum of pressure. Even if you disregard their no. 10’s impending return, Belgium’s future is looking Hazardous, and not necessarily in a good way.