Another win for Belgium, Greece heads for World Cup playoffs
Belgium chasing European record of 43 goals in qualifying competition
ATHENS: Eden Hazard fired Belgium to its fifth straight World Cup qualifying victory, scoring twice for a 4-0 win in Cyprus on Tuesday, while Greece also beat Gibraltar 4-0 to edge Bosnia and Herzegovina for a place in the playoffs.
Hazard raised Belgium’s goal tally further, opening the scoring in the 12th minute after teammate Youri Tielemans poached the ball off defenders. It was a night for the Chelsea star’s family to shine. He scored a penalty in the second half, and brother Thorgan also found the net, celebrating his first goal for Belgium when he was able to tap in a rebound.
Belgium was chasing the European record of 43 for most goals in a qualifying competition, either for a World Cup or European Championship, which Germany had just set in its qualifying group. In the 78th minute Romelu Lukaku - returning from injury - equaled the mark when he ran on to a long ball, shrugged off a hapless defender and scored with a low drive, his 11th goal in qualifying. Captain Jan Vertonghen appeared in his 97th international to become the most-capped Belgian international, with previous record holder Jan Ceulemans applauding from the stands.
“It was a good game for us. We could have scored five or six, but the score isn’t really that important,” said Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, who rested several key players before ending the 10-game qualification run with 28 out of the possible 30 points. “We saw was a willingness to work hard and play well,” he said.
GREECE REACHES PLAYOFFS Greece initially displayed weakness in attack, but Gibraltar eventually tired and conceded three times in the second half for the 4-0 loss, finishing with no points after 10 games in Group H. “We have rebounded from a bad spell and we are back in form,” said Greece captain Vassilis Torosidis, who opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, meeting a cross from Carlos Zeca with an athletic header.
Kostas Mitroglou scored twice in the second half, striking within two minutes, and Ioannis Gianniotas added the fourth. Bosnia could only hope for a group upset, but stayed behind Greece despite a 2-1 win in Estonia.
Before the start of the match Tallinn’s Le Coq Arena was littered with flares near the away-fan enclosure, setting the atmosphere for a tense game. The Bosnians pressed hard despite the dwindling odds of qualification. Izet Hajrovic got both goals for Bosnia, while Ilja Antonov scored for the hosts. Casert reported from Brussels, Belgium. — AP
We have rebounded from a bad spell and back in form
PIRAEUS PORT: Greece’s Kyriakos Papadopoulos heads the ball during the World Cup Group H qualifying soccer match between Greece and Gibraltar at Georgios Karaskaikis stadium in Piraeus port, near Athens.— AP