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Belgium Qualify For World Cup

Roberto Martinez

A strong Belgium side were hardly at their best in Brussels but did enough against Estonia to ensure they will in Qatar.

In Brussels, Belgium created a first chance after five minutes when Benteke cut inside and fired a left-footed shot that took a deflection over the crossbar. Belgium took the lead six minutes later after Estonia goalkeeper Matvei Igonen failed to clear a low cross from Carrasco, releasing the ball into Benteke’s path. The Crystal Palace striker collected the ball and scored with a simple tap-in from close range.

Carrasco made it 2-0 in the 53rd minute with a shot from the edge of the box into the top corner.

While Belgium had 20 attempts at goal, the visitors were overwhelmed by their rivals’ speed and intensity. They rarely managed to progress outside their own half and scored against the run of the play in the 70th. But Belgium did not panic and Hazard capped Belgium’s win four minutes later from De Bruyne’s set-up.

Belgium made it to the semifinals at the 2018 World Cup and was eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual winner Italy at the European Championship earlier this year.

Roberto Martinez’s players blew another chance to win a trophy last month when they lost to France in their Nations League semifinal. The World Cup on Qatar might be the last chance for Belgium’s golden generation to finally win a trophy at international leve.

Martinez knows expectations are always high for his Belgium side, and he was proud to tick another important box Saturday as the Red Devils secured qualification for the 2022 World Cup. Winners of all but two of their qualifiers since Martinez took charge in 2016, Belgium have plenty of reason to be proud.

“We’re in a situation where we always have to win everything,” Martinez told reporters. “That is what the outside world expects and it creates extra pressure. I am very happy that our players are handling this well. They always go for it.

“Every player is always in a special situation at his club, but with the national team all noses are in the same direction. That’s a good mindset. It’s not as obvious as it seems.

“We have now played 27 qualifiers under my reign. We won 25 of those. We should be happy about that. That is why we should really celebrate this qualification. That is not so normal.”

Martinez said goalkeeper Thibault Coutois may not travel to Cardiff for Tuesday’s Group E finale against Wales, but otherwise Belgium will put forth a representative side as their opponents try to lock up second place in the group.

“We have to try to win there, play the game fairly,” Martinez said. “The atmosphere will be very hostile as Wales want to qualify for the play-offs. I will therefore go there with the strongest possible core.

“Only Courtois may not go to Wales, he is not completely fit and has not trained much. For the rest, no yellow cards or injuries, so everyone is coming along.”