Belgium outclass Scotland
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez believes a fresh Kevin De Bruyne will be even better for club and country this season after the Manchester City midfielder tore Scotland apart in a 4-0 win for Martinez’s men on Monday. De Bruyne set up Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld to score inside the first 32 minutes before capping a brilliant individual display by rounding off the scoring.
Belgium and City had to cope without the 28-year-old for most of last season due to two major knee injuries. But De Bruyne has started the season like a man keen to make up for lost time. “He has started the season in a fresh manner and you can see his exceptional quality. For me he is the best playmaker in world football,” said Martinez.
“Playmakers used to stop the play to make the pass, he can execute that pass on the move. You saw him fresh, full of responsibility and he’s having a very influential role.” De Bruyne will be a key figure for the Red Devils if Belgium is to deliver on their enormous potential by winning next year’s European championships. The victory maintained their 100 percent record in Group I of qualifying after six games.
By contrast, Scotland boss Steve Clarke admitted his side’s hopes of automatic qualification are already over after a fourth defeat in six matches left them fifth in the group, behind Cyprus and Kazakhstan. Scotland now has to rely on a playoff next March, earned via winning their Nations League group under former manager Alex McLeish.
“The group is over in terms of qualification,” said Clarke with Scotland nine points behind second-placed Russia. “We have to target the third position. There are 12 points up for grabs and we have to make sure we finish third in the group. “If we finish third in the group it means we will have performed well and given us confidence going into the playoffs in March.”