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Big second half helps Belgium break down, blow out Ireland

Belgium v Republic of Ireland - Group E: UEFA Euro 2016

BORDEAUX, FRANCE - JUNE 18: Romelu Lukaku of Belgium celebrates scoring his team’s first goal with Marc Wilmots manager of Belgium during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group E match between Belgium and Republic of Ireland at Stade Matmut Atlantique on June 18, 2016 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

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Romelu Lukaku needed two touches to change Belgium’s course for EURO 2016.

The big Everton striker picked up a cross from an electric Kevin De Bruyne and hammered a left-footed shot past Darren Randolph to awake the Red Devils, later adding a second goal in a 3-0 win Saturday in Bordeaux.

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Axel Witsel added a goal in the 61st minute, powering a header through Randolph. Thomas Meunier of Club Brugge unleashed the cross, and was one of the day’s stars.

The win moves Belgium second in the group, and grants Italy the title of Group B winner. Belgium gets Sweden in the group finale, and will go through with a draw or better. Ireland needs to beat Italy and hope for the table to break its way.

Belgium’s advantage in team speed was apparent from the get-go, as was De Bruyne’s dynamic agility during a dribble into the box that forced a low collection from Randolph.

Ireland kept high pressure on Belgium’s back line, with Jan Vertonghen making some crucial interceptions. A lively Eden Hazard blazed an arrow over the bar on 20 minutes.

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Once Belgium found control in the match, Ireland’s defensive set-up proved adept at closing shooting lanes quickly. When it couldn’t, like on a De Bruyne set piece before halftime, backs were on hands to clear the ball off the line.

Lukaku’s second goal was fairly simple for the big man, as Hazard found him near the penalty spot on a 3v1.

Follow @NicholasMendola