epa06832983 Romelu Lukaku (L) of Belgium and Yassine Meriah of Tunisia in action during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group G preliminary round soccer match between Belgium and Tunisia in Moscow, Russia, 23 June 2018.
Saturday Jun 23, 2018. 16:10
Tunisia’s 2018 World Cup campaign is hanging by a thread after they suffered a 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Belgium at the Otkritie Arena in Moscow on Saturday afternoon.
The ‘Carthage Eagles’ will be mathematically eliminated in the likely event that England avoid defeat against Panama in the other Group G match on Sunday – that would also confirm progression for the ‘Red Devils’ who top the standings with six points.
Belgium had a couple of threatening moments early on and their aggression was rewarded with a penalty, with Eden Hazard tripped up just inside the 18-yard area by Syam Ben Youssef. Hazard took the spot kick himself and converted for a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute.
Just over 10 minutes later the ‘Red Devils’ doubled their advantage: Tunisia gave the ball away on the halfway line, Dries Mertens powered forward and played in Romelu Lukaku, who provided a classy finish for 2-0.
Tunisia struck back quickly to reduce the deficit, with Wahbi Khazri’s free kick glanced home by Dylan Bronn. The full-back’s first international goal made it 2-1 in the 18th minute, but he was soon replaced by Hamdi Nagguez after suffering a knee injury.
And the ‘Carthage Eagles’, who created several promising chances through the remainder of the first half, were dealt yet another injury blow and forced into bringing Yohan Belalouane off the bench to replace Syan Ben Youssef in the 41st minute.
Belgium struck again in injury time at the end of the first half, with Thomas Meunier teeing up Lukaku – the striker chipped a delicate shot past Farouk Ben Mustapha to make it 3-1 at the interval.
The European side extended their advantage six minutes after the restart, with Hazard running onto a long ball from Toby Alderweireld, rounding the goalkeeper and shooting into an unguarded net to make it 4-1.
With the points in the bag, manager Robert Martinez took both Lukaku and Hazard off, though there was let off in attacking intensity from the Belgians, and substitute Michy Batshuayi could have scored a hat-trick had he been more ruthless.
The replacement striker finally bagged a goal in the last minute of regulation time, while Tunisia also scored a consolation through Khazri in the dying seconds of the game to complete the 5-2 score line.
Belgium will wrap up their Group G campaign with a clash against England in Kaliningrad on Thursday, while Tunisia will face Panama in Saransk in a concurrent match.
Belgium (3) 5 (E. Hazard pen 7’ 51’, Lukaku 16’ 45+3’, Batshuayi 90’)
Tunisia (1) 2 (Bronn 18’, Khazri 90+3’)
Belgium: Courtois, Boyata, Meunier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Witsel, E. Hazard (Batshuayi 68’), Carrasco, De Bruyne, Lukaku (Fellaini 59’), Mertens (Tielemans 86’)
Tunisia: Mustapha, Maaloul, Bronn (Nagguez 24’), SB Youssef (Benalouane 41’), Meriah, Sassi (Sliti 60’), Khaoui, Skhiri, Badri, Khazri, FB Youssef