Wales lose their first World Cup qualifier against Belgium as the No. 1-ranked hosts come from behind with Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku on target after Harry Wilson’s shock opener.
- Wales took the lead with Harry Wilson completing a brilliant team move
- Kevin de Bruyne replied with a great shot from distance to straighten his side
- Thorgan Hazard then headed Belgium and they cruise the game
- Romelu Lukaku put the result beyond doubt with a penalty late at 3-1
- Latest World Cup 2022 news, including schedule and results
Gareth Bale revealed this week that playing in a World Cup would be the seal of his brilliant career – but Kevin De Bruyne will have many lofty goals in the international competition.
While Wales took credit for their opening qualification for Qatar 2022, they are returning empty-handed after De Bruyne’s masterclass earned the points for the world’s No. 1-ranked nation in the first half of the world.
Harry Wilson’s well-executed goal gave Wales a shocking lead, but Belgium dominated the rest of the half, equalized through De Bruyne and completed the comeback when Thorgan Hazard – brother of injured Real Madrid star Eden – went home.
Kevin de Bruyne (center) took Belgium to the same level with an astonishing shot from distance in the first half
Harry Wilson had broken the deadlock after completing a wonderful team move for Wales
Thorgan Hazard went in the second direction Belgium to complete a quick turnaround
Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku admitted a penalty to put the result beyond question
MATCHES AND PLAYER RATINGS
BELGIUM: Courtois 5.5; Alderweireld 6, Vermaelen 5.5 (Denayer 46, 6), Vertonghen 6; Meunier 6.5, Dendoncker 6.5, Tielemans 7, Hazard 7 (Castagne 84); Mertens 7 (Trossard 90 + 3); Luke 6.5.
Unused subs: Mignolet, Casteels, Foket, Vanaken, Januzaj, Praet, Benteke, Doku, Batshuayi.
Goals: De Bruyne 22, Hazard 28, Lukaku 72 (pen)
Manager: Roberto Martinez 6.5
WALES: Ward 6; Mepham 5.5, J Lawrence 6, Rodon 6.5; Roberts 6.5, Allen 6 (Morrell 8, 5.5), Ampadu 6, N Williams 5; Bale 6.5 (Moore 84), Wilson 7 (T Roberts 67, 6), James 6.
Unused subs: Hennessey, Davies, Gunter, Cabango, J Williams, Robson-Kanu, Norrington-Davies, Smith, T Lawrence.
Goals: Wilson 10
Manager: Rob Page 6
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir 6
Wales improved after the break, but Romelu Lukaku’s penalty kick, 18 minutes for full-time, put an end to their hopes as Belgium took some measure of revenge for Wales’ stunning victory over them in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.
With Rob Page at the helm due to the continued absence of Ryan Giggs, Wales wanted to extend their unbeaten record against Belgium to five games.
There are flaws on Roberto Martinez’s side, but some of their football in the first half has been breathtaking and they will be a huge threat at Euro 2020.
Exhausted from injuries, Wales will give their most important men a breather when they play against Mexico in a friendly match in Cardiff on Saturday.
Wales were already without veteran pair Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies due to an injury and early in the game they lost to Joe Allen, another important man.
The midfielder retired with only eight minutes left and was replaced by Joe Morrell.
Still, Page’s team reacted brilliantly and took the lead two minutes later with a fantastic goal.
Gareth Bale took center stage and released Connor Roberts with a clever touch. With the Wilson dummy, Bale was able to collect Roberts’ pass back and pass it on to Wilson, who calmly led the ball past Thibaut Courtois.
It was a constructive start to the campaign, but it didn’t last long. It is not without reason that Belgium is at the top of the FIFA rankings and they quickly took the reins.
Joe Rodon did well to block Romelu Lukaku’s attempt from the inside, before Youri Tielemans’ volley was deflected next to a corner.
Only Lukaku will know how he failed to equalize in the 17th minute, when the Inter Milan forward somehow sent De Bruyne’s cross from the age of four.
De Bruyne led the show and had such a solid midfield that he allowed for his side control
Roberto Martinez will be delighted with the start his team made for World Cup qualification
De Bruyne decided to take matters into his own hands and scored with a glorious 25-yard shot that swung past Danny Ward and headed in off the post.
Belgium was now in their stride, taking the lead in the 28th minute when Roberts slipped at the crucial moment as he tried to defend Thomas Meunier’s cross, allowing Hazard to plant a free header past Ward.
The whistle for half time came when Wales appeared to be overwhelmed, but the visitors were more positive at the start of the second half.
Bale (right) laughed after full-time with Real Madrid teammate Thibaut Courtois (left)
Bale’s ambitious bicycle kick fell wide after Dan sent James Roberts’ cross back into the danger zone, and James himself found a promising position in the box and then went wide.
Belgium, however, resisted and sealed the win when Chris Mepham’s clumsy challenge Dries Mertens fell into the penalty area and sent Lukaku Ward the wrong way from the spot.
Bale’s dream of reaching a World Cup got a little more difficult leading up to next week’s meeting with the Czech Republic.
De Bruyne, meanwhile, is already thinking about winning it.
Bale (left) and De Bruyne (right) both dream about reaching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
Scroll through Sportsmail’s live feed to see how all the action unfolded …