By Martin Petty

COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) – For a brief moment on Saturday, Belgian maestro Kevin De Bruyne looked like he was about to drop a bombshell on his country when he started talking about leaving the national team in good shape for when he moves on.

It would have been terrible timing for De Bruyne to announce he was hanging up his international boots after an astonishing performance in their 2-0 win over Romania, when he netted his 28th goal for Belgium and was instrumental in keeping their Euro 2024 hopes alive.

“When I leave the team it will be up to them to be left to their own devices,” said the Belgian captain, who was player of the match.

After a few moments of puzzlement among media, De Bruyne quickly clarified.

“I was more thinking about the fact that there are lots of young lads coming in,” he said.

“I’ve been playing for this team for the past 10 years now and I’ve got knowledge to share with them but I haven’t really thought about whether it’s the end of the road for me here.

“I don’t really like thinking about when I’m going to be retiring or my future,” he added.

De Bruyne, 32, was involved in just about every move in what was a brilliant showing from Belgium and it took him 80 minutes before he finally cracked it.

Belgium were ahead after just 73 seconds, with Romelu Lukaku teeing up Youri Tielemans to fire into the corner.

They were insatiable in their pursuit of a second, with Lukaku, De Bruyne, Dodi Lukebakio and Jeremy Doku determined, relentless and combining seamlessly to threaten the Romanian goal throughout both halves.

De Bruyne got there in the end, latching on to a long ball from goalkeeper Koen Casteels and prodding home to send an army of thousands of flag-waving, red-clad supporters into a frenzy.

“We’ve been under a lot of pressure, so we wanted to get rid of that pressure. All I had to do was take that touch,” he said of the goal.

Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco was full of praise for his captain having been without him in qualification due to injury.

“Everybody says that he was never so happy, so positive, and I think you can feel that,” Tedesco said. “It’s important that we get the lads onto the pitch in that kind of mood.”

(Reporting by Martin Petty, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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