WORLD CUP PREVIEW: Belgium

WORLD CUP PREVIEW: Belgium

COACH – Marc Wilmots
BEST SHOWING – Semi-finals 1986
QUALIFICATION – Winner of UEFA Qualifying Group A
TOURNAMENT ODDS – 22/1 (BetVictor, PaddyPower)
FIXTURES
June 17th – Algeria (1700 BST, Belo Horizonte, ITV)
June 22nd – Russia (1700 BST, Rio de Janeiro, BBC)
June 26th – South Korea (2100 BST, Sao Paulo, ITV)

 

Button Russia Button South Korea Button Algeria

 

Belgium hadn’t qualified for the World Cup since 2002 but the way qualification went you wouldn’t have believed it. The Belgians made relatively easy work of their group, winning eight and drawing two, one of those draws being a dead rubber against Wales.

Disappointing friendly losses to Colombia and Japan followed but wins over Luxembourg, Sweden and Tunisia have warmed them up for Brazil nicely.

Since Marc Wilmots took charge in 2012, a promising core of players has matured so much that Belgium come in at relatively short odds for victory. This is the first taste of tournament football for all the squad with the exception of Bayern’s Daniel van Buyten, a sole survivor from the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea.

Wilmots will line up with a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1 depending on circumstance and Thibaut Courtois is expected to beat Simon Mignolet out for the goalkeeping jersey.

Full back is a weakness. Toby Alderweireld and Thomas Vermaelen are centre backs for their clubs but are full backs for their country, while Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen should pair up in the centre.

Midfield should be the trio of Steven Defour, Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini with Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne on the wings. Christian Benteke hasn’t made it so the pressure falls on Romelu Lukaku to score the goals.

The Belgians have more options though – Moussa Dembele, Kevin Mirallas and Nacer Chadli are all good midfield alternatives but if Lukaku goes down, a lot of pressure will fall on Lille youngster Divock Origi to fill the breach.

For all the attacking talent the Belgians do possess, it is interesting that throughout qualifying they failed to score more than twice in any game. They create the chances but putting them away can be a problem.

 

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ONE TO WATCH

09 WORLD CUP BRUYNEAlthough assured he was a part of Jose Mourinho’s plans last summer, De Bruyne made just nine appearances for Chelsea after a £7m move in the summer of 2012.

After being loaned out to his first club Genk and then Werder Bremen, the winger attracted many admirers in his Bundesliga stay. Wolfsburg eventually coughed up £18m in January and he moved there.

Despite his youth, De Bruyne has plenty of experience and has been unfazed by the Bundesliga. Capable of playing on either wing and skilled with both feet, De Bruyne’s strength comes with his crossing and his passing. He’s not afraid to take on his man and can be a handful for anyone in full flow.

 

HERE COMES D-JUDGE
D-Judge

Belgium come to Brazil with a lot of hype surrounding them and it’s easy to see why. They’re a talented bunch of players but a few question marks hang over them.

One or two have had questionable seasons at club level, Fellaini in particular. For all the attacking talent they possess they should score more than they do and if Lukaku goes down, they lack a spearhead. Alderweireld and Vermaelen also look vulnerable against pacy wingers.

That being said the Belgians don’t lack options. Mirallas, Chadli, Dries Mertens and Dembele can make big contributions off the bench if needed and it aids Wilmots in his tactical plan that he can change to a Plan B.

The perception is that this is Belgium’s time to go deep in the tournament and maybe even match their 1986 efforts. I think they could do but a lack of tournament experience could also work against them.

 

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VERDICT

They’ll win the group but a tricky last sixteen tie awaits. Overcome that and it’s likely to be Argentina. Overcome those challenges and I’ll truly believe the hype surrounding Belgium.

 

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Danny (D-Good)
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: admin@owlsalive.com
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @DGood83


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