Saturday 23 June 2018, 17:07

Batshuayi's perseverance pays dividends

  • Batshuayi notched the fifth goal of Belgium’s resounding 5-2 win over Tunisia

  • The impact substitute squandered several chances before hitting the back of the net

  • His reward for the goal? A family barbecue

By Simon Massart with Belgium

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall,” said Confucius, and Michy Batshuayi demonstrated the truth in that adage in Moscow on Saturday, finally scoring Belgium’s fifth goal in their comprehensive 5-2 defeat of Tunisia after missing several golden chances.

Batshuayi came off the bench in the 68th minute, keen to get his name on the scoreboard in a FIFA World Cup™, having watched friend and fellow striker Romelu Lukaku register his second brace in two matches in Russia.

Belgium were brimming with confidence at that point, launching incessant attacks against a tired Tunisian defence. It was an ideal situation for Batshuayi to finally realise the childhood dream of all players: scoring on football’s greatest stage.

He looked lively from the outset, taking advantage of the significant spaces appearing at the back, and his team-mates were providing him with useful service, as the noisy _Diables Rouges _supporters willed him on from the stands. Despite exhibiting excellent control and incisive play, he was denied by the goalkeeper and the crossbar, as well as a last-ditch goal-line clearance.

“My only option was just to keep my head up,” Batshuayi said. “I’d been studying their defence in the first half, and I knew that if I knuckled down I’d eventually be rewarded.”

And what a reward it was: in the dying seconds of the match, the Brussels-born forward slid in to coolly convert a fine cross by Youri Tielemans, after which he was immediately engulfed by his team-mates, who seemed even happier than him to see the ball nestling in the back of the net.

“It was such an emotional moment, especially when added to the fact that we’d shown that this Belgium team is getting better and better, just as we said it would,” said the pacey attacker, who has now scored eight goals for his country, six of which have come as a substitute into the match.

Grilled by his father A perfectionist like Lukaku, Batshuayi could not stop himself from mulling over the chances he had missed during the encounter. “It’s a bit of a bitter-sweet feeling, because I could have scored quite a few times,” he said, still smiling broadly, and doubtless looking forward to the family barbecue that Roberto Martinez had promised him and his team-mates.

“My dad will be there to share in my big moment, but knowing him, he’ll be annoyed at how many chances his son failed to put away!” he joked.

Belgium’s delighted fans are much more likely to remember Batshuayi's goal than his misses, however, as they savour their nation’s joint-largest-ever victory at a World Cup.