Scotland 0-4 Belgium: De Bruyne shines on miserable night for Scots

Kevin De Bruyne delivered a masterclass as Scotland suffered a sobering 4-0 Euro 2020 qualifying loss at home to Group I leader Belgium.

Belgium defender Toby Alderweireld celebrates after scoring against Scotland at Hampden Park.

Belgium defender Toby Alderweireld celebrates after scoring against Scotland at Hampden Park.   -  Getty Images

Scotland's bid for automatic qualification to Euro 2020 is all but over after it was outclassed by a Kevin De Bruyne-inspired Belgium, which ran out 4-0 victor at Hampden Park.

The Manchester City midfielder made goals for Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld in the first half before claiming a deserved one of his own late on as the Group I leader ran riot against Steve Clarke's team.

Scotland is at least guaranteed a place in the play-offs in March after winning its Nations League group, but there is much work for new boss Clarke to do before then.

Belgium, meanwhile, lived up to its status as the number-one side in the FIFA rankings as it maintained its 100 per cent record in the group.

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Clarke made four changes to the team beaten by Russia on Friday and his side began purposefully only to find itself behind within nine minutes following a devastating demonstration of counter-attacking at its best from the visitor.

Dries Mertens set De Bruyne away down the left channel and he drove towards goal before picking out the onrushing Lukaku at the far post and, with time and space to compose himself, the Inter Milan forward made no mistake.

The outstanding De Bruyne once again was the provider in the 24th minute, bending in a superb cross which Vermaelen flicked home.

It was next the turn of another Belgium defender, Alderweireld, to make it three eight minutes later when he took advantage of slack marking to head De Bruyne's cross in off the underside of the crossbar, capping a disastrous first half for the home side.

It was still Roberto Martinez's team which looked the more likely to add to its advantage, with De Bruyne and Alderweireld spurning chances before the former got the goal his efforts deserved, curling in with eight minutes left after being found by Lukaku.

What does it mean? Belgium virtually assured of top-two finish

A comfortable victory at Hampden Park left Belgium with six wins from six and on course for a top-two finish.

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Scotland, above only San Marino in the six-team group, know it at least has the cushion of the play-offs.

De Bruyne back to his best 

His performances so far this season for Manchester City have already suggested De Bruyne is returning to the peak of his powers and there was yet further evidence here in what was a world-class display from the Belgium international, who provided three assists in the first half alone before scoring a deserved goal. 

Lacklustre defending a real concern for Clarke

Losing to the world's number-one ranked team is no disgrace, but what will have infuriated Clarke is the ease with which his Scotland side gave goals away. It lacked defensive discipline, failing to track runners and allowing its opponents too much space from set-pieces.

Key Opta facts

- Scotland has lost three consecutive competitive games for the first time since March 2013 (four in a row).
- Under Martinez, Belgium has won all five of its matches against British sides by an aggregate score of 14-0.
- Vermaelen scored only his second international goal for Belgium and first since November 2009 versus Hungary – 3586 days ago.
- De Bruyne has had a direct hand in seven goals in just four games versus Scotland (two goals, five assists).
- Lukaku has scored four goals in his three international appearances against Scotland, finding the net with four of his six shots on target.

What's next?

Scotland travels to Russia next month and a second-half caution for a challenge on Mertens means Scott McTominay will be suspended for that game. Belgium hosts Group I's bottom side San Marino.

- Clarke: Scotland's Euro 2020 automatic qualification hopes over -

Steve Clarke admitted Scotland's hopes of automatically qualifying for Euro 2020 are over and urged his side to claim third place after their humbling by Belgium at Hampden Park.

With the top two positions which offer automatic qualification effectively beyond Scotland – which is 12 points behind leaders Belgium and nine adrift of Russia – Clarke's team's only real hope of qualification is via the play-off spot it secured by winning its Nations League group.

Clarke said it is vital Scotland now builds momentum and finishes as high as possible in its group ahead of those March games which will determine whether it reaches a first major tournament in 22 years.

"The group's over in terms of qualification," head coach Clarke told Sky Sports. "We have to target third position, there's 12 points up for grabs and between now and the end of the campaign we have to make sure we finish third in the group - it's important for ranking and seeding.

"It'll mean we'll have performed well, won a few games and picked up points which should give us confidence heading into the play-off games in March."

Clarke added: "It's obviously difficult to try and sugar coat a 4-0 defeat. It's very difficult to take positives.

"But you have to look at the way the team's set up, the way we tried to press, which we did really well at times. We had good possession, almost 50-50, and some chances. We looked at times like a good team but you can't run away from the scoreline."

"Defensively we have conceded too many goals - one against Cyprus, three in Belgium, two against Russia and four tonight," he continued.

"If you concede goals it's very difficult to win matches."

Meanwhile, Belgium boss Roberto Martinez was delighted with his side's display as they maintained their 100 per cent record in Group I.

"We have now virtually qualified, playing San Marino next," he said. "Now it is important to come first in the group. It was a really pleasing performance. We combined the quality we have with hard work from the start."

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