Dominant Kevin de Bruyne steers 'merciless' Belgium past Germany

Belgium's Kevin de Bruyne (centre) in action against Germany in a friendly match on March 28, 2023. PHOTO: REUTERS

COLOGNE – Kevin de Bruyne has said there is a “fun” factor playing under new Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco, as his goal and two assists lifted the team past struggling Euro 2024 hosts Germany, winning 3-2 in a friendly in Cologne on Tuesday.

The playmaker set up goals for Yannick Carrasco and Romelu Lukaku inside 10 minutes, before scoring one of his own late in the second half to deepen Germany’s woes ahead of the European Championship on home soil.

“It was a nice match. The first 30 minutes were very good, full of effort. It’s good to see that we can be so good,” de Bruyne said on television channel VTM. 

“It’s fun to play like this, fun for everyone. Not only with the ball, also defensively. We try to put pressure on quickly and win the ball quickly. Then you get the ball back so much faster, that is also the intention of the coach. There were many good moments. 

“The coach has already laid a certain foundation, for example, in terms of structure. His way of playing is already a bit there, but there are, of course, also times when it is still a bit difficult. 

“But after eight days together, I think this is the best we could do.”

Germany were hoping to find some form after recent uncharacteristic early exits from major tournaments – they suffered a second successive World Cup group-stage exit in Qatar, which followed a last-16 loss to England at Euro 2020 – 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, adding that “Belgium played mercilessly”.

“You could see that we have a lot of work in front of us. We want to be more active and we did it better after about 30 minutes. For us, with an eye on the future, that’s where we have to work on. For everyone to work together.” 

The introduction of Emre Can, who replaced the injured Leon Goretzka midway through the first half, brought the home side some desperately needed stability.

But with three first-choice central defenders out, a rattled Germany – who scored through Niclas Fullkrug and Serge Gnabry – looked mostly helpless against a rejuvenated Belgium side.

“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.” AFP, REUTERS

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