Belgium came back after going a goal down in just 10 minutes to beat Wales 3-1 in the 2022 FIFA World Cup European Qualifiers.

Goals from Kevin de Bruyne, Thorgan Hazard and Romelu Lukaku sealed the victory for the Red Devils against a good Wales side. 

Belgium come into the FIFA World Cup qualifiers as the 1st ranked football team in the world and it is no surprise. They finished 3rd in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and have big names in every position, including a lot of squad depth.

It was Wales, however, that opened the scoring as Connor Roberts and Gareth Bale combined for Harry Wilson to finish off a fantastic team move as the away side took the lead against the run of play in the 10th minute.

Belgium did not take long to answer back as Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne found the net in the 22nd minute and Borussia Dortmund’s Thorgan Hazard (Real Madrid star Eden Hazard’s brother) quickly put the home team into the lead 6 minutes later to make it 2-1.

Harry Wilson

Harry Wilson opened the scoring for Wales. (Photo by Angelo Blankespoor/Soccrates/Getty Images)

The Belgians were the better side and deserved to go into the break leading after a dominant showing.

The Welsh side, however, did come out of the break with lots of intent and looked like they would potentially find an equaliser but it was no to be as a Romelu Lukaku penalty sealed the win for the Red Devils in the 73rd minute.

This was Wales’ first defeat in a competitive match since June 2019, ending their national record of an impressive 11 games unbeaten.

The game was always going to be difficult for the away side going up against the highest ranked team in world football, currently and it could, on paper, not be a more difficult fixture.

Belgium have been unbeaten at home since 2010! They will come into the 2022 FIFA World Cup as one of the favourites, never mind qualification.

What was surprising between these two teams’ meeting was that Belgium had failed to beat Wales on all 4 of the previous occasions and that includes Euro 2016 being the last time they met when an inspired Welsh side beat the overwhelming favourites 3-1 in the quarterfinals.

Belgium have been red-hot since Roberto Martinez took over. They have scored an astounding 153 goals in just 51 games under the Spaniard and are yet to lose a match in a qualifier!

Wales were prepared for an onslaught hence, set up to try and contain their free-scoring opponents as best they could.

It was against the run of play when Wales took their opportunity, just like all teams that set up in a low block, typically do. Wales barely touched the ball during the early stages but, when they had their first meaningful spell of possession, they made it count.

Chris Mepham started the move with a long ball out of defence, which Wilson brought down nicely and played onto Bale. He skillfully released Roberts along the right wing with a delicate first-time pass with the outside of his left foot.

Roberts then played the ball back to Bale, whose right-footed through ball was perfect for Wilson to latch onto, who calmly stroked the ball into the bottom corner.

Kevin De Bruyne Belgium

De Bruyne scored a stunner. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

The goal was a work of art and entirely against the run of play, one that any football head coach would be proud of.

Belgium answered back just 12 minutes later. De Bruyne equalised with a powerful low strike from 25 yards just like he often does.

Belgium’s pressure was relentless and it was no surprise that they took the lead in the 28th minute.

Thomas Meunier swung in a cross from the right and Hazard managed to get to the ball to head home.

The game was almost exclusively being played in the Welsh half as Belgium had 80% possession and the Welsh were lucky to go into the break just 1 goal down.

Wales showed a lot more heart and steel in the second half, as they pushed forward with greater confidence and freedom.

Bale made a couple of dangerous runs into the box and mishit an ambitious overhead kick, before Manchester United‘s Daniel James cut inside and shot wide.

Despite the hard work the Welsh did to take the game to the hosts, they struggled to trouble them with genuine scoring opportunities.

Belgium dealt with Welsh attacks fairly comfortably and patiently waited for their opportunity.

Lukaku Tielemans Meunier

Romelu Lukaku (centre) celebrates his goal with Youri Tielemans (left) and Thomas Meunier (right).
(Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

Wales conceded a penalty in an outrageous manner with Mepham trying to clear a loose ball in the box but not noticing the Dries Mertens, who was running onto the ball. Mepham kicked him unintentionally to concede the penalty.

Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku stepped up to take it and he made no mistake to give Belgium an unassailable 3-1 lead.

It was the striker’s 58th international goal, which is more goals than Wales’ starting line-up combined!

It was the perfect illustration of the gulf between the sides and, even if Wales had enjoyed some unforgettable successes over Belgium in the past, they were no match for them on the day, especially when playing in Belgium.

However, these are early days in the campaign for Wales. Their next qualifier is at home against the Czech Republic – who thrashed Estonia 6-2 courtesy a Tomas Soucek hattrick in Wednesday’s other Group E game. This game will be important for both sides as it will give them a slight advantage in the race for qualification from Europe.

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez after the game said, “We knew it was going to be a tough game and it became even harder in the moment we conceded the first goal.

“I thought Wales adapted to the game better than us and it was made for the perfect away team performance – the conditions, the lack of fans and they showed their quality with a great move.

“Then we had two choices: either accept it or show personality and bravery, and that’s what the team did. We never accepted the game would get away from us and scored two very good goals.

“I’m pleased with the style of the performance and with the incredible personality the players showed.”

Wales caretaker manager Robert Page said, “We knew coming into it they’re number one in the world for a reason. They can score goals but we knew we could hurt them and score goals as well.

“I thought the goal we scored was fantastic and we got off to the perfect start.

“But if you give quality teams like this half a chance, inevitably the ball ends up in the back of the net.

“We addressed a few things at half-time from a tactical point of view and I thought we were better for it and went toe to toe with the world’s number one team. So there are a lot of positives.”