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Rediff.com  » Sports » World Cup warm-up: Belgium cruise past Egypt; Nigeria lose

World Cup warm-up: Belgium cruise past Egypt; Nigeria lose

June 07, 2018 12:01 IST

IMAGE: Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne takes a shot at goal. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Belgium hammered the final nail into Egypt's halting World Cup warm-up campaign with an assured 3-0 win in Brussels on Wednesday that settled some nerves among the fancied hosts, who lacked injured defensive linchpin Vincent Kompany.

Sticking with a three-man defence, England's group-stage opponents Belgium showed more cutting edge up front than in their goalless outing at home on Saturday against Portugal.

 

Romelu Lukaku, favoured as starting striker over Michy Batshuayi, thumped home from close range in the 27th minute when Egypt's 45-year-old keeper Essam El-Hadary spilled from Eden Hazard.

Chelsea midfielder Hazard then made it 2-0 11 minutes later after Yannick Carrasco cut the ball back from the goal line.

Batshuayi, on for Lukaku, set up Marouane Fellaini for a final flourish in stoppage time to complete a sixth straight game without a win for Egypt.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez hailed improvements in his side's "togetherness" as well as their attacking performance.

IMAGE: Belgium's Eden Hazard, centre, tries to make his way past a few Egypt defenders. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

The Spaniard had raised eyebrows by slotting Laurent Ciman into skipper Kompany's number four shirt and keeping him on for 90 minutes. Ciman is officially only on the waiting list for Russia in case the Manchester City man or Barcelona's Thomas Vermaelen are still injured.

"If those players are not in the squad, Laurent will be a straight replacement," Martinez said, describing Ciman as a good fit for either injured defender.

He insisted he is still giving Kompany and Vermaelen, who are training with the squad, time to prove their fitness and said there could also be roles for Dedryck Boyata and Leander Dendoncker, depending on the opposition.

Belgium will complete their warm-up fixtures with another home tie, against Costa Rica, next Monday after which Martinez must decide on his final 23-man squad for Russia.

Egypt, missing injured Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah, rarely troubled Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois, although midfielder Trezeguet forced Courtois into a save a minute after coming on for Marwan Mohsen in the second half.

Egypt begin their World Cup campaign against Uruguay in Russia next Friday.

IMAGE: Nigeria's Wilfred Ndidi, centre, runs with the ball. Photograph: Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters

Nigeria turned in a disappointing performance in their final tune-up, losing 1-0 to the Czech Republic who failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Tomas Kalas gave the Czechs a deserved lead in the 25th minute in Schwechat, near the Austrian capital of Vienna, after he fired home a rebound following a corner to beat sprawling Nigerian goalkeeper Francis Uzoho.

Nigeria, who have lost three of their last four games and drawn the other, kick off their World Cup campaign against Croatia on June 16, but they looked disinterested during the opening half as the Czechs dominated.

The Nigerians stepped up the pace in the second half – briefly interrupted by a rain delay – and created a few chances but could not find the net against a Czech side who conceded four goals against Australia last week.

Also playing on Wednesday were Panama, whose preparations ended on a low note as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat by Norway after an early goal by Joshua King.

Worryingly for the Panamanians, who face Belgium, England and Tunisia in Group G in their first World Cup finals appearance, they struggled to deal with Norway's physical power, but they did create decent chances in the second half.

Source:
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