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Courtois rescues a point for Belgium while Czech Republic dispatch Kazakhstan with ease

Paul Gilham

For all their talent, and all their hype, Belgium have not quite lived up to expectations.  Sure, their World Cup quarterfinal run could be considered a success on paper, but on the pitch, they've hardly impressed.  There's this idea of a free-flowing, devastatingly attractive and free-scoring Belgium side (backed by solid defense with Kompany, Courtois & Co), but save for random flashes of brilliance, we have not really seen such a thing put into practice.  It all may be an impossible expectation in all honesty, but facing a resolute Bosnia and Herzegovina side in front of a rabid crowd in Zenica today, Belgium continued that trend with a highly fortunate 1-1 draw.

The match started well enough, both sides opening with two strikers (Divock Origi and Romelu Lukaku for the visitors, Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic for the hosts) and pouring forward with reckless abandon.  Asmir Begovic was the busier of the two keepers however, saving well from the lively Origi and the imperious Eden Hazard.  The Chelsea man and his blue toe were at the center of everything good for Belgium, not just in the first ten minutes but throughout the rest of the match as well.  Unfortunately, he could not do it all by himself on this occasion and as he drifted out of the game in the second half (or, perhaps more accurately, was increasingly underutilized by his teammates), so did the Red Devils.  They will have to remember to send a fruit basket and thank you note to Asmir Begovic for his howler that allowed Belgium to walk away with a share of the spoils.

As Belgium's fortunes turned, so did -- in an inverse relationship, of course -- Thibaut Courtois's involvement.  After seeing an unstoppable shot fly past him in the first half, he did just enough to force Miralem Pjanic wide on the hour mark as Vincent Kompany recovered to block the tight angle shot, before making the save of the game on Edin Dzeko's bullet of a free header from eight yards out.

No such heroics were required from Chelsea's other world class goalkeeper, Petr Cech who was off having a good time somewhere in the middle of Asia with the Czech Republic.  Goals from Borek Dockal, David Lafata, Ladislav Krejci, and Tomas Necid fueled the 4-2 victory, with both goals from Kazakhstan coming long after the match had been decided.  Though their second consolation was thanks in part to Cech misplaying a corner.  Oh well.  What matters is that the Czechs are perfect through the first three games of Euro 2016 qualifying and with the Netherlands losing again, might actually have to start considering Iceland (who are also perfect so far) as their main competition in the group!

Elsewhere, Jordan Houghton and John Swift were involved for England U20 as was Cristian Cuevas for Chile U20.

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