Soccer-Belgium reach World Cup finals with win over Estonia
The Belgians, semi-finalists in Russia in 2018, climbed to an unassailable 19 points in Group E as Christian Benteke scored early and Yannick Carrasco and Thorgan Hazard added second-half goals. Belgium join Brazil, Denmark, France and Germany among the first five countries to qualify for next year's finals in Qatar.
But it was in fact a wasteful display from Belgium, whose supporters were expecting more of a goal feast at the King Baudouin Stadium to celebrate qualifying for a third successive World Cup. Without the injured Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi, the 30-year-old Benteke was given a rare chance to lead the attack and took little time to open the scoring.
He tapped-in from close range after Estonia goalkeeper Matvei Igonen made a horrible error, letting a low cross from Carrasco slip through his hands. Benteke might have had a couple more before the break while Eden Hazard was away with just the goalkeeper to beat, after a clever over-the-top pass from Kevin De Bruyne, but wasted the chance.
Carrasco showed the way after Benteke had set him up in the 52nd minute with a powerful left-footed drive into the top of the net from the edge of the area. But Estonia then pulled one goal back when Rauno Sappinen’s shot was palmed away by Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois into the path of Erik Sorga, who cut the deficit in the 70th minute.
It was four minutes later that the two-goal advantage was restored when substitute Thorgan Hazard headed home De Bruyne’s cross. Belgium, who are top of the FIFA rankings despite a quarter-final exit at the European Championship and fourth place at last month’s Nations League finals, will finish their qualifying campaign away against Wales in Cardiff on Tuesday. (Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Toby Davis)
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