Belgium lock heads against the Republic of Ireland in their second game in Euro 2016 at the Stade Matmut Atlantique On Saturday.
Belgium are one of the favourites in the tournament but they had a disappointing start to their campaign as they lost their opening match against Italy 2-0. Marc Wilmot’s side managed to create chances against Italy but they lacked the precision on the final ball.
Belgium would look forward to step up their game and clinch their first points of the tournament. A defeat against Ireland will almost cancel out their chances of qualifying into the round of 16. Italy have already advanced to the knock-out stages with two consecutive wins against Belgium and Sweden
Saturday’s clash against Ireland will be crucial in determining their future in the tournament. A win will take them to the second spot in the group with a fair chance of qualifying into the next round but a defeat will it make it difficult for them as they will be up against Sweden in their last group stage fixture.
Manager Marc Wilmot revealed that he would like to stick to his attacking philosophy even after a defeat, as he believes that his team has enough potential to live up to that standard.
“Even if we lose two games it won’t change our philosophy. Even if you think I should. There is no lack of confidence, certainly not. One-one would have been more deserving (against Italy). One team played football, the other didn’t. What I want is attacking football and we have the DNA to play that game,” said Wilmot.
On the contrary The Republic of Ireland started well as they held Sweden to a 1-1 draw in their opening game. Martin O’Neill’s side would look forward to hold on their form and come up with a similar performance against World No.2 Belgium.
They took an early lead against Sweden and it looked as if they would clinch all the three points but a late equalier from Ciaran Clark in the dying minutes of the game cancelled out Wes Hoolahan’s incredible goal in the first half.
“Belgium are a really fine side, really fine. Individually they are as talented as any side in the competition. They are very dangerous anyway, but even more so now they are a bit of a wounded animal. They will cause us problems so we have to show the same spirit and determination again and try and play as strongly with the ball as we did the other night,” said Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill.
Belgium are unbeaten in their last six matches against the Republic of Ireland (W2, D4) dating back to a 3-2 friendly loss in 1966.
They haven’t faced each other since November 1997, when Belgium beat the Republic 2-1 in a home World Cup qualifier.
Belgian coach Marc Wilmots featured in the 1-1 draw at Lansdowne Road in the same qualifying campaign.
The Republic of Ireland have never beaten Belgium in a competitive match (D5, L2). This is their first major tournament meeting.
Possible XI: Courtois; Ciman, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Witsel, Naingolan; Hazard, Fellaini, De Bruyne; Lukaku
Rep. of Ireland
Possible XI: Randolph; Coleman, O’Shea, Keogh, Brady; McCarthy, Hendrick, Whelan, McClean; Hoolahan; Long