World Cup bronze medalists Belgium made light work of Alex McLeish’s Scotland in their friendly at Hampden, running out 4-0 winners.
The defeat was the Scots’ worst at home for 45 years.
Scotland started brightly against a physically gifted Belgium side. They put together the first good move on four minutes, with Callum McGregor clipping the outside of Thibaut Courtois’ post after a great through ball from Kevin McDonald.
The linesman’s flag was up regardless.
The quality of Belgium’s players, most notably Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, was plain to see, though, and his movement, as well as that of Dries Mertens and Timothy Castagne, was ominous.
However, Scotland had largely restricted the visitors to pot shots until 28 minutes, and had looked capable, through Stuart Armstron, Andy Robertson, John McGinn and Callum McGregor of creating chances of their own.
Then keeper Craig Gordon rolled the ball straight out to McGinn, who had been the Scots’ best player in the early stages. It was a bad choice, with the midfielder caught napping by Mousa Dembele.
The ball was worked to Romelu Lukaku, who kept his calm to finish past defender Charlie Mulgrew, who desperately tried to block.
Belgium really took a grip on the game at this point as the levels across the Scotland team dropped.
It could have been more by half-time. It was after.
Straight from kick-off for the second half, Hazard easily side-stepped Aberdonian Ryan Fraser, playing at wing-back, on the left of the box and fired into the roof of the net.
Seven minutes later and after a loose Mulgrew pass, Hazard slid the ball through to sub Michy Batshuayi, who the defence had left in acres of space, and he was free to curl a left-footed shot from 12 yards into the bottom corner past Gordon.
Several substitutions had crippled Scotland, but the Red Devils seemed almost unaffected.
Next to blunder was Rangers’ Ryan Jack. On 60 minutes, he was robbed by Youni Tielemans in his own half and Batshuayi finishing for Belgium once more.
Dons fans would have been heartened to see club captain Graeme Shinnie earn another cap for the Dark Blues, when he came on for John McGinn after 73 minutes.
As the home team sought a late consolation, Fraser’s long-range curling shot forced Courtois to tip the ball round his left post, before sub Johnny Russell made the Real Madrid keeper save with his feet.
Alex McLeish’s team must iron out the mistakes against for their UEFA Nations League opener against Albania in Glasgow on Monday.
Admittedly against far lesser opposition, the match is a must-win as the Scots seek an alternative route to the Euros in 2020.
SCOTLAND: Craig Gordon, Ryan Fraser, Andy Robertson, John Souttar, Charlie Mulgrew, Kieran Tierney, John McGinn, Kevin McDonald, Leigh Griffiths, Callum McGregor, Stuart Armstrong.
Subs: Steven Naismith (for Griffiths 45), Robert Snodgrass (for McDonald 53), Ryan Jack (for Armstrong 53), Stephen O’Donnell (for Mulgrew 67), Johnny Russell (for McGregor 67), Graeme Shinnie (for McGinn 73).
Subs not used: Allan McGregor, Jordan Archer, Callum Paterson, James Forrest, Scott McTominay, Graeme Shinnie.
BELGIUM: Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Thorgan Hazard, Youri Tielemans, Mousa Dembele, Dedryck Boyata, Timothy Castagne.
Subs: Thomas Vermaelen (for Kompany 45), Michy Batshuayi (for Lukaku 45), Yannick Carrasco (for Mertens 45), Thomas Meunier (for Castagne 45) Hans Vanaken (for E. Hazard 55), Birger Verstraete (Dembele 85).
Subs not used: Mats Selz, Koen Casteels, Toby Alderweireld, Axel Witsel, Birger Verstraete, Leander Dendoncker, Leandro Trossard.