Saturday, October 21, 2017

Prediction: Belgium vs Rep of Ireland

Verdict: Both teams to score – yes

Odds: 1/1

Bookmaker: William Hill

Euro 2016 title favourites will be keen to move past their opening disappointment against Italy as they prepare to lock horns with Republic of Ireland who are coming off from a 1-1 draw against Sweden willing to take positives from the match and inflict another hard blow to Mark Wilmots’ men.

Belgium

Red Devils underperformed in their opening game of the 2016 European Championship finals and cannot afford another slip up if they want to keep their hopes alive in France. Belgium lost 2-0 to Italy at Stade de Lyon on Monday with Antonio Conte’s men producing a surprisingly clinical display in contrast to lethargic display from Mark Wilmots’ men. Fans did not hide their disappointment as they booed the head coach several times during the match and Belgians will need to show an instant improvement in their play in order to make amends for an utterly disappointing performance. Consisting of world-class players, Belgium are still lacking that special ingredient that will make them a quality unit with the team lesser than the sum of its part as it now appears to be. Everton striker Romelu Lukaku came under harsh criticism following his particularly poor display against Italy as former Chelsea forward failed to step outside the Italy back three’s shadow. Bonucci and Chiellini held the towering striker tight in their pocket with Lukaku being unable to demonstrate proper movement, ball control or get into position to pose any danger to Buffon’s goal.

Team News

Mark Wilmots will be urged to make a couple of changes to his starting line-up following a clearly non-functional system against Italy.

Romelu Lukaku could lose his place in the starting team to Divock Origi, while Eden Hazard could be slotted into the central role with in-form Yannick Ferreira Carrasco expected to start on the flanks.

Republic of Ireland

Martin O’Neill’s men have grabbed a point from their Euro 2016 opener against Sweden, but a 1-1 draw felt like a defeat to supporters who witnessed a solid performance from their team at the start of the final showpiece tournament. Ciaran Clark scored a frustrating own goal as Ireland were held to a draw following We Hoolahan’s deserved lead shortly after half-time. Despite the magnificent performance against Ibrahimovic and co. Ireland have failed to preserve their lead and now face an exciting challenge as they need to beat Belgium on Saturday if they want to keep their chances of qualifying from the group stage alive. Martin O’Neill’s team had struck the woodwork and came close to scoring their second on several occasions prior to scoring and will be expected to continue with fine performances in their second game of the tournament. Republic of Ireland will be buoyed by fantastic support in Bordeaux as their fans are expected to flock the stadium on Saturday to back their team in the crucial match. Supporters have announced special plan to commemorate the Loughinisland massacre by standing up in silence six minutes into the game against Belgium to mark the 22nd anniversary of the six men murdered in 1994 while watching Ireland vs Italy.

Team News

Martin O’Neill was very pleased with his team’s performance against Sweden and is unlikely to change the working formula for the Saturday’s match against Belgium.

Hoolahan is expected to keep his place in the starting line-up following his goal in the Euro 2016 opener, while Keane will once again wait for his chance from the bench.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Rep of Ireland have kept just 1 clean sheet at the Euros since 1988
  • Wes Hoolahan is the 4th Republic player to score at the European Championship
  • Robbie Keane became the oldest outfield player to play for Republic at the Euros
  • Belgium have conceded at least a goal in their last 8 matches
  • There was over 3.5 goals scored in 7 of Belgium’s last 10 games

Conclusion

Pressure is high on tournament’s favourites Belgium, who will need to be more clinical upfront if they want to keep their Euro 2016 hopes alive after the second round of group stage. Republic of Ireland are in a good place and will be looking to exploit the positive momentum after an inspiring performance against Sweden. Martin O’Neill’s men are capable of inflicting a major blow to wounded Red Devils and goals could be the best option for this match.

Verdict: Both teams to score – yes

Odds: 1/1

Bookmaker: William Hill

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