Belgium’s World Cup preparations ended in style as they brushed past Costa Rica with a 4-1 win at the Heysel Stadium.
Despite taking a shock lead through Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica were no match for their superior opponents and two goals from Romelu Lukaku had Belgium in control.
Napoli’s Dries Mertens and Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi were also on the score-sheet as a serious dark horse for the tournament look all set for their trip to Russia.
Belgium will be England’s biggest competitor in their World Cup group and will face Gareth Southgate’s side in the final group game, but go into the tournament full of attacking flair and goal from this display.
Roberto Martinez’s team should have been out of sight in the first half as they dominated possession and the Costa Rica defence struggled to keep up with likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and co. One of the biggest misses came after eleven minutes as Celtic defender Dedryck Boyata slammed his free header over the bar, despite being just ten yards out.
It was a really good chance and Belgium paid for it when they fell behind thanks to a stunner from ex-Fulham man Ruiz. Jan Vertonghen failed to clear his lines correctly with a header and the Costa Rica captain expertly rifled home a volley from 18 yards out. It was a terrific finish and Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois stood no chance with a desperate dive to keep it out.
The home side would not be behind for long though as they dragged themselves level in the 31st minute. Hazard was at the heart of the move again and despite scuffing his shot badly, the ball fell perfectly into the path of Mertens and the Napoli man tapped home to level the scores.
The equaliser signalled the end of Costa Rica’s chances in the game as Belgium went from strength to strength. Lukaku would have grabbed his first of the night from a super Hazard pass, but Real Madrid shot-stopper did whatever it took to keep it out as he took the ball flush in the face to deny the striker.
The Manchester United man was not be denied though as Navas was picking the ball out of his net again just three minutes before the break. De Bruyne pulled the strings with a measured pass wide for Mertens, who was impressive all night, and his cross was volleyed home with confidence by Lukaku from close range.
The end to the first half mirrored the start to the second half as Belgium were celebrating another goal from Lukaku. This one was more of a hustling centre-forward trademark as Nacer Chadli’s cross was bullied into the back of the net from the head of Belgium’s talisman. It was a goal that settled the result and meant Belgium could turn their head towards Russia.
Martinez rung the changes to protect his team from injuries and one substitute took his chance to impress by adding a fourth goal in the 64th minute. It was a move that began with a Hazard nutmeg and ended with Lukaku selflessly squaring for Batshuayi to poke past Navas, despite a glorious chance for the ex-Everton man to score a hat-trick.
In the end, it was a pleasing performance for Martinez’s side as they showed guts to come from behind and the attacking flair to flex their muscles in victory. It was certainly a 90 minutes of football that will a stark warning to England of their abilities.