Belgium cruised to the second victory of their UEFA Nations League campaign with a thrilling show of attacking menace after Iceland took a surprise lead.
Belgium vs Iceland: as it happened
Match in brief
The visitors should have been ahead after five minutes, Hólmbert Fridjónsson clearing the bar with a free header from a classy Birkir Bjarnason cross. Fridjónsson’s speculative shot from outside the penalty area then took a huge deflection, looping over debutant Koen Casteels to open the scoring.
Perhaps provoked, Belgium responded almost immediately, Dries Mertens curling a free-kick against the angle before Axel Witsel converted from the rebound. Michy Batshuayi punished Ögmundur Kristinsson’s spillage, then tapped in his second after Mertens had found a clever finish from Kevin De Bruyne’s typically perceptive pass to make it 3-1 after the break. Jérémy Doku smashed in the fifth.
Dante Bellon, Belgium reporter: Belgium continue their excellent start in the UEFA Nations League. This team had no fear of playing without Eden Hazard or Thibaut Courtois, and youngsters Doku and Yari Verschaeren showed that they are ready for the first team. But what a game by De Bruyne on the evening he was crowned PFA Player of the Year. Scoring a goal would have made it a dream night.
Andri Yrkill Valsson, Iceland reporter: Everyone expected a difficult night, but that early lead made the collapse that followed even harder. Seven changes, including a whole new defensive line, may have caused Iceland to creak at the back, and Belgium took full advantage. Without so many regulars, this game turned into a tough mental test for the players on the pitch, but Erik Hamrén will not dwell on these results as he focuses on how his less experienced players responded. Strong characters are needed after a night like this.
Erik Hamrén, Iceland coach: “We started well but they have an exceptionally good team and we had some trouble – especially when we were in one-on-one situations, where they are very good. I got a lot of answers tonight; some positive, others negative. We need to face the fact that they are a better team than us. We had neither the energy nor strength to defend for each other throughout the game. We need to be more united, like we were against England. But Belgium move the ball faster, and then it is harder to defend in front of goal.”
Hólmbert Fridjonsson, Iceland scorer: “I saw the ball coming my way and the only thought that crossed my mind was to go for it. You need to shoot to score, and this time the ball went in. We started well but stayed deep and, when we went for counterattacks, it was hard to keep up the energy. They have a great team but the goals we conceded were bad. We were too soft in the box.”
Roberto Martínez, Belgium coach: “Today, I saw the values of the Red Devils even more than I did against Denmark [when Belgium won 2-0]. We conceded a very quick goal but reacted perfectly. It was a pleasure to see the players on the pitch and a pleasure to see a player like Jérémy Doku make such progress. He wants to learn from the more experienced players and he capped a good performance with a nice goal. I hope to see more of him like that and the U21 – even U17 – players.”
Jérémy Doku, Belgium striker: “It was a very special night for me, as you can see. I came into this team ten days ago and tonight I scored my first goal on my second appearance. [Romelu] Lukaku told me to just be myself and then the rest will come. That’s how it was.”
- Belgium have won their last 13 games (F47 A4).
- They have been victorious in 36 of their last 43 matches, losing only twice.
- The Red Devils have failed to score in only two of their last 43 games and have found the net at least four times in six of their last eight matches.
- Toby Alderweireld captained his country as he collected his 100th cap.
- Michy Batshuayi has scored ten goals in his last 11 games for Belgium.
Belgium: Casteels (Mignolet 55); Alderweireld, Denayer, Vertonghen; Meunier, De Bruyne (Vanaken 80), Witsel, T Hazard (Verschaeren 65); Mertens, Batshuayi, Doku
Iceland: Kristinsson; Hermannsson, Fjóluson, Eyjólfsson, A. Skúlason; Sigurdsson (Anderson 72), Pálsson, Baldursson (Hallfredsson 53), B Bjarnason; Gudmundsson, Fridjónsson (Bödvarsson 70)
Group A2 continues next month, with England vs Belgium and Iceland vs Denmark on Sunday 11 October.