Swiss roll as Belgium choke late in five-goal collapse

LUCERNE (Switzerland) • Belgium were at a loss to explain their collapse against Switzerland on Sunday when they threw away a two-goal lead, conceded five goals in an hour and missed out on the final four of the Nations League event.

Some players felt the World Cup semi-finalists might have got carried away after they went two goals ahead after only 17 minutes.

Certainly there was a point shortly after their second goal when Belgium seemed to be tempting fate by passing the ball around in midfield to cheers of "ole".

But coach Roberto Martinez refuted suggestions that his men had taken their opponents too lightly.

"Arrogance? No, we were surprised on counter-attacks, we forgot to defend well," said the Spaniard, who lost his second competitive match since taking charge after the Euro 2016 tournament.

"It's very difficult to give an explanation. We started well, then at a certain point, Switzerland had nothing to lose.

"We must come out stronger, try to understand what we have done wrong. It is all the more painful that we had started very well."

  • 17

    Minutes Belgium took to go 2-0 up before conceding five goals.

Defender Thomas Meunier felt Belgium had only themselves to blame for being complacent and the capitulation had been his "worst match with the Red Devils".

Midfielder Thorgan Hazard, scorer of both Belgium goals, also admitted the visitors were "too self-assured" and were taught "a very important lesson".

Despite losing 2-1 in the reverse fixture in Brussels last month, Switzerland qualified for next June's semi-finals, joining hosts Portugal and England, by virtue of having a better head-to-head record after both teams finished with nine points in Group A2.

Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic lauded the comeback, which was led by a hat-trick from striker Haris Seferovic and further goals by defenders Nico Elvedi and Ricardo Rodriguez (penalty).

"I want to congratulate each player, there was a big mental reaction, the players never gave up, they always believed," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2018, with the headline 'Swiss roll as Belgium choke late in five-goal collapse'. Print Edition | Subscribe