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Win puts spring in Belgium's step

Kevin De Bruyne was dominant, Romelu Lukaku ruthless in front of goal. If a first-day defeat shook Belgium up, Berend Scholten is glad to say the Red Devils are into their stride now.

Romelu Lukaku celebrates his third goal in Bordeaux
Romelu Lukaku celebrates his third goal in Bordeaux ©Getty Images

If questions were being asked of Belgium after the 2-0 loss to Italy in their UEFA EURO 2016 opener, the 'golden generation' found their sparkle at the second time of asking with Saturday's 3-0 Group E win in Bordeaux.

Marc Wilmots' team's initial misfire against Italy raised anxieties that the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne would not get ino their groove, despite the experience of reaching the 2014 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals. Some in the Belgian media even wondered whether De Bruyne would start against the Republic of Ireland, even though he had created his side's best chance against the Azzurri for Romelu Lukaku.

Wilmots did reshuffle, returning to a familiar 4-2-3-1 system with Thomas Meunier and Yannick Carrasco reinforcing the right flank and Mousa Dembélé coming into midfield. However, De Bruyne was handed a central role behind striker Lukaku and it paid off. The No7 had helped build pressure on the Irish goal in the first half, and it followed that it was he who set up Lukaku's opener after the interval.

"I challenged the players a bit to get them ready mentally," coach Wilmots said after the match. "Today it turned out my strategy was the right one. But it's the players who did the work.

"Along with Lukaku, De Bruyne had a key part in the victory. The only thing we had to do after the Italy game was to give our answer on the pitch. We had to prove to everyone – inside and outside Europe – that we are eager to be here and to have a brilliant tournament."

Lukaku: We got the result we needed
Lukaku: We got the result we needed

Lukaku tellingly ran straight to Wilmots to celebrate his 48th-minute breakthrough and despite scoring Belgium's first and third goals, either side of Axel Witsel's headed finish, 'Big Rom' played down his contribution.

"I am just happy for my team-mates," Belgium's No9 told EURO2016.com. "And if we all work together and do what we need to on the pitch, we can only go home with glory."

"With Romelu Lukaku, we wanted to give him some confidence," Wilmots noted. "When he missed against Italy everyone was saying it's all over. I just needed to explain things to him and make sure he knew I trusted him. He did what I expected today."

The same goes for Belgium. Still the top European team in the FIFA rankings, there was a fear coming into this game that they could only disappoint. However, with De Bruyne dominant and Lukaku finding his range, the Red Devils have much more to offer at UEFA EURO 2016.