1st June 2012
Roy Hodgson started his England reign with an unconvincing away victory over Norway, and the game against Belgium at Wembley is a perfect opportunity to record a morale-boosting win before the start of the European Championship. Belgium may not have qualified for the Euro 2012, but Marc Wilmots’ team are filled with talent and this will be a great test for them ahead of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
Nobody expected England to finish their Euro 2012 preparations without a single problem, but it is fair to say that not too many people expected two key players to be ruled out of the tournament mere ten days into their training camp. The Three Lions managed to gift Roy Hodgson a victory in his first game in charge, mostly thanks to Ashley Young’s moment of brilliance, but the win came at a cost as Gareth Barry picked up an injury that forced him to withdraw from the squad. As if that wasn’t enough, Frank Lampard also had to pull out just few days later, leaving Phil Jagielka and Jordan Henderson to try and replace them in Poland and Ukraine. The good news ahead of the Belgium clash is that Chelsea players Terry, Cole and Cahill are back in contention and they look set to start, but Wayne Rooney, Glen Johnson and Danny Welbeck continue to miss out. Scott Parker suffered a recurrence of his Achilles injury against Norway, but he could still play some part at Wembley.
When you have the likes of Courtois, Hazard, Kompany, Vermaelen, Fellaini and Witsel in the squad, any failure to qualify for a major tournament is pretty difficult to explain, so nobody was surprised to see coach Georges Leekens leave the post following an unsuccessful Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. New boss Marc Wilmots hasn’t had such an impressive debut as his side failed to beat Montenegro at home, but the game against England is a good opportunity to make amends for the setback. The talented coach was unable to count on several high-profile players for the game against Montenegro, and the selection problems continue to mount. Important defenders Nicolas Lombaerts and Toby Alderweireled are both ruled out, as is Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois, while Manchester City campaign Vincent Kompany is a major doubt. Thomas Vermaelen should be fit to play, whereas Eden Hazard is set to give the fans at Wembley a glimpse of what they are bound to see across the Premier League grounds next season.
England players will be fired up to convince their fans they will not be going to Poland and Ukraine just to make the numbers, but numerous selection problems make life difficult for Roy Hodgson. Belgium obviously have nothing to lose and their explosive attackers are bound to cause the Three Lions defence all sorts of problems.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 10/11
Bookmaker: William Hill
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