ANALYSIS: How Belgium stretched Ireland and left our defence in shreds

Every goal conceded came from out left side

Ireland, James McCarthy, Belgium,

Ireland’s James McCarthy, Darren Randolph and Ciaran Clark dejected ©INPHO/James Crombie

One of the takeaways from Belgium's 2-0 loss to Italy on Monday was the lack of width in their attacking play.

With Eden Hazard on the left and Kevin De Bruyne on the right that night, Belgium ended up running into dead-ends in front of the Italian centre-halves because the wide-men like to cut inside. They also had no support from the full-backs that started that night.

But Marc Wilmots did change the system for the Belgians in their 3-0 win over Ireland this afternoon, with De Bruyne moving to a central playmaker role on paper and a more natural winger in the shape of Yannick Ferreira replacing him on the flank as Marouane Fellaini was left out.

Ireland had also moved away from the diamond formation with a move to 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1 which on paper, gave more defensive width than the previous formation - at least in terms of closing down full-backs.

Yet Belgium still managed to overcome that, wearing us down as the match wore on thanks to their star men further up the field.

 

 

In the Opta graphic above, Belgium's chances mostly came from wide areas and De Bruyne (No 7) did not just sit centrally, moving from his playmaker zone to wider areas to support the wingers on either side, particularly on the right to create overloads.

All three of their goals came from down that side and Irish errors were prominent in most of those.

Belgium's Romelu Lukaku scored his sides third goal ©INPHO/James Crombie

The first one saw James McCarthy as the culpable player as he went to ground and missed a tackle on De Bruyne down the right touchline - our left side - which led to Romelu Lukaku's first goal.

McCarthy was again to blame as he failed to track Axel Witsel run into the box as another cross came in from the Belgian right, this time with right-full-back Thomas Meunier with a deep cross that was not closed down.

And the third bore similarities to the first as Ciaran Clark missed the tackle on Hazard out on the touchline which eventually led to another goal for Lukaku on receipt of the ball from the right.

Right, right, right was one part of the story but also two of the three goals came on the counter-attack with Irish players pushed upfield, giving Belgium space to run into and defenders to run at.

And unfortunately for us, on the two counter-attacking occasions, Clark and McCarthy panicked and attempted wild challenges on the dribbling attackers.

With players taken out of play through rash decisions, it then left the Irish defence in disarray as Belgian players broke into the open spaces.