Belgium now have steel to match style, says Lukaku
Belgium can play with flair and attacking style but also know how to grind out a result, striker Romelu Lukaku said after they beat Denmark 4-2 to reach the final four of the Nations League on Wednesday.
The Belgians have been one of Europe's form teams in recent years but despite topping the FIFA rankings, they have sometimes looked vulnerable under pressure when not dominating matches.
Yet Lukaku said Belgium’s attacking style, spearheaded by the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, was now combined with a defensive efficiency that allowed them to dig themselves out of tight spots.
“We have proven now we can play difficult games,” said Lukaku after Wednesday's victory where the scoreline did not reflect Denmark’s dominance at times.
“We can play teams off the park but we also know how to win when its needed even if it is not with our best style. When we need we can play with a strong defence and on the counter attack.
“Our football has developed such that we can be efficient in defence and then in a moment score goals with a single chance,” he told a news conference.
Lukaku’s prolific scoring form for his country continued with a double on Wednesday which means he now has 57 goals in 89 appearances for his country.
Belgium advanced to the Nations League finals in October along with World Cup winners France, Italy and Spain.
Italy gave another impressive performance and extended their unbeaten run to 22 games with a 2-0 win away to Bosnia on Wednesday.
Andrea Belotti broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute and Domenico Berardi added the second with a magnificent volley midway through the second half as Italy topped Group A1 with 12 points from six games.
"The coach wants us to play our football wherever we go and that is the mentality we’ve really taken in," said Italy winger Lorenzo Insigne. "This shirt has to be honoured every time and we give our all for Italy."
Italy's biggest fault was a failure to take their chances and Belotti had squandered two before putting them ahead.
Insigne, who curled a shot against the post late in the first half, was in inspired form and set up the goal with an outswinging cross which the player known as the Rooster converted despite not making proper contact.
The second goal was a masterpiece as Manuel Locatelli lifted the ball over the Bosnia defence and his Sassuolo team mate Berardi met it on the volley as the ball dropped over his shoulder and hooked it into the net.
Federico Bernardeschi smashed a late shot against the crossbar as Italy cruised home.
Captain Georginio Wijnaldum scored a late winner as the Netherlands rallied from a goal down to beat Poland 2-1 in League A Group 1 in Chorzow on Wednesday.
Kamil Jozwiak scored a scintillating solo goal to put Poland in front early, but Memphis Depay equalised for the visitors from the penalty spot, before Wijnaldum added to his two goals against Bosnia at the weekend to head home the winner.
Italy’s victory in Bosnia meant neither side could top the pool, but the Netherlands finished second with 11 points from six matches, one behind the Italians, with Poland third on seven.
The home side made the perfect start with a stunning individual effort from Jozwiak, who was sent into open space by Robert Lewandowski. The winger showed admirable pace to outstrip the defence and beat two defenders before a neat finish past Tim Krul in the Dutch goal.
Depay blasted home his penalty on 77 minutes after a foul on Wijnaldum by Poland defender Jan Bednarek.
The Dutch skipper then netted the winner, heading in Steven Berghuis’s corner to seal back-to-back wins for new coach Frank de Boer.
Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.