Belgium first European team to secure World Cup place

Summary

A 2-1 win over Greece in Athens secured the Red Devils’ place at the World Cup in Russia next summer, following a straightforward qualification campaign

Two games to spare

Belgium beat Greece 2-1 in Athens last night to become the first European team to win a place at next year’s World Cup. A 74th-minute header from Romelu Lukaku secured the Red Devils’ berth with two games to spare, after Jan Vertonghen’s 70th-minute opener was cancelled out by a goal from Greece’s José Carlos Gonçalves Rodrigues. 

The result gave Belgium an unassailable eight-point lead over Bosnia in Group H. It was their seventh victory in eight Group H matches, making them the sixth team to book their place for the finals alongside Brazil, Japan, Iran and Mexico. Russia qualify automatically as hosts.

Roberto Martinez’s side have breezed through the qualification process after being drawn in a weak group that includes Cyprus, Estonia and Gibraltar. Earlier last week, Belgium thrashed Gibraltar 9-0 in Liège, with Lukaku and Thomas Meunier both scoring hat-tricks.

The team will be hoping to improve on their performance at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where they lost 1-0 to Argentina in the quarter-finals.