England v Belgium Preview : The Real Challenge
Event Venue: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, June 28 7pm. Live on ITV.See Stats
The draw for the 2018 World Cup group stages has been kind to both of these sides. They face the lesser lights in their first two games before this big clash. Our preview looks ahead to the final group match as England face Belgium hopefully to decide who wins the group.
The Big Test
Sometimes in life you head towards an important event and you hope that when the time comes you are in the shape to deal with it. That's how this final group game against Belgium feels for England. Qualifying wasn't a problem though they often failed to look impressive but that's England really. Warm-up games have seen them play well at times and then be hanging on the next so you never really know what to expect.
In an ideal world, England will come into this game with two wins over Tunisia and Panama. They may not look like world-beaters in doing so but if they can put in two good performances that don't leave their fans at home in total panic of another humilaiting result, then that's fine. Getting a lead on Belgium in goal difference would be ideal too as then they'd just need a draw here to win the group.
Then there's the flip side that always seems to make its appearance for England in major championships. That nervous start and failure to win the opening fixture that leaves them playing catch-up for the rest of the group. Failure to wiin either of their opening two games will have them fearful of losing this game against the world's third ranked side and nervously keeping an eye on how Panama v Tunisia is getting on.
England should hopefully avoid the latter of those situations but will find it hard to get a win over Belgium. Their midfield doesn't look good enough to get enough possession and their defence will be severely tested. Thankfully, if they do finish second in the group, their potential last sixteen opponents which will will most likely be either Poland or Colombia don't look too frightening.
You can get odds of 2/1 on England to beat Belgium with Betfair (18+ t&c's apply)
Belgium Have a Lot to Prove
We all know that on their day Belgium have the players to beat any side in the world. Whether it's the magical midfield skills of Kevin de Bruyne or the attacking flair of Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku who have all caused plenty of problems in England's top league in recent years, there are plenty of reasons to believe Belgium can go deep in this tournament. That's been said before and too often they tend to put in a bad display and get knocked out earlier than they should
The 2014 World Cup saw Belgium get their best result at the tournament but even then it was only a run to the quarter finals. They won all their three group games against Algeria, Russia and South Korea but failed to score a goal before the 70th minute and had to come from behind to get the win over the Algerians, so it's not just England that make their fans sweat. It was even worse in the last sixteen when they beat USA 2-1 with all the goals coming in extra time. Their run ended in the quarter finals losing 1-0 to Argentina.
Belgium also had high hopes of wining Euro 2016 but came second in their group after losing to Italy and needed a late goal to defeat Sweden. They showed just how good they can be with a 4-0 win over Hungary in the last sixteen but then that bad day arrived and they slumped to a 3-1 defeat by Wales.
Belgium had few problems qualifying for Russia and scored 43 goals in their ten games, winning all but a home draw against Greece - another of the bad days. Unless something goes wrong in their final two friendlies and opening two games in Russia, England will be facing a side that hasn't lost since 2016 and on a 21-game unbeaten run but only time will tell on that one. Belgium need to get some momentum going and if that does happen in two games against Panama and Tunisia and the goals start to flow, then this could be the year when they show their full potential.
Belgium are ranked third in the world for a reason but still have a lot to prove in major tournaments. The odds are that both sides will go into this game on six points and with goal difference the main tiebreaker, one side may just need a draw to win the group. Belgium have the better players and that should be the key here, this preview suggests using your free bet on a Belgian victory.
Get odds of 13/10 on Belgium to beat England with Boylesports (18+ t&c's apply)
- England are ranked 13th by FIFA ten places below Belgium.
- England are unbeaten in their last 11 World Cup games going into this tournament
- Belgium have only beaten England twice in 21 games and one of those was on penalties.
- Four of the last five games between these two sides have had under 2.5 goals scored in them.
- Belgium have only scored once in their last four games against England
- Two previous World Cup matches between the two sides have seen England win one and draw the other
- The last World Cup meeting was in 1990 with England winning 1-0 in extra time.
- Belgium topped their qualifying group scoring 43 goals in ten matches
- Belgium are unbeaten in their last three games against European sides at the World Cup finals
- England have only won one of their last five games against European sides at the World Cup finals.
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