5 things we learned from Belgium's Euro 2016 win over the Republic of Ireland
Published 19/06/2016 | 15:11
Belgium finally came to the Euro 2016 party when they cruised to a 3-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland to leave Martin O'Neill's men on the brink of an early exit.
Here, Press Association Sport considers five things we learned at the Stade de Bordeaux.
IF YOU DON'T TAKE YOUR CHANCES...
Ireland did not create a great deal in Bordeaux and certainly not enough to get anything out of the game. But they had done in the first hour of their clash with Sweden and were only able to take one of them, meaning Ciaran Clark's late own goal cost them dearly, a failing which was compounded by the defeat to Belgium.
AS YOU WERE
If there was disappointment that the Republic could only draw with the Swedes, it was tempered by the quality of a performance which suggested O'Neill's men might just be able to mix it with the best the Continent has to offer. Belgium disabused the optimists of that notion with a powerful second-half display, and Italy are likely to present no less a challenge even if manager Antonio Conte does make wholesale changes.
Shane Long arrived at the tournament as one of the Barclays Premier League's in-form strikers and having assumed Robbie Keane's mantle as the man most likely to find the back of the net for Ireland. Chances have been few and far between for the Southampton frontman, although he received no meaningful service against the Belgians other than the Robbie Brady free-kick which cost him a kick in the head.
By contrast, Everton's Romelu Lukaku benefitted from a much improved Belgium display and was handed the chance to demonstrate his prowess in front of goal. His expert finish from Kevin de Bruyne's pass gave his side the lead, and he finally killed off Ireland from a more straightforward chance set up by Eden Hazard.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots spent the days leading up to the game in the firing line after his side's 2-0 defeat to Italy first time out. However, his response to the criticism was delightfully dismissive. He said: "I live with criticism, but apart from death, I don't know what else could really affect me."