Belgium vs England
Familiarity breeds contempt.
In truth, there has been little of that between Belgium and England as they prepare for a fourth meeting in less than two and a half years.
Perhaps that is because all three recent clashes have been played when the stakes have been fairly limited: a World Cup group match which was a ‘dead-rubber’; a third-fourth place play-off in the same tournament and a UEFA Nations League group match last month.
This time, though, there is more to play for.
If Belgium win, they will be just one point from reaching the Nations League semi-finals and send England, semi-finalists in the inaugural tournament, packing.
They start as favourites because, as well as remnants of the so-called Golden Generation, there is also a wave of exciting young talent beginning to emerge.
A failure of belief, as much as anything, seemed to cost them against France in the World Cup semi-final two years after a tactically brilliant win over Brazil in which Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Thomas Meunier excelled.
Last month’s showing at Wembley, without a number of key players, was nothing like them at their best. I expect an improved showing and Nations League highlights on home turf.
They will be still without key men in Brussels with captain Eden Hazard and goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski both sidelined due to positive Covid-19 tests and new Leicester City full-back Timothy Castagne out.
Their absentees pale into insignificance compared to England, however.
Defensive mainstay Harry Maguire – who scored in Thursday’s friendly win against Ireland – and Chelsea’s young defender Reece James are both suspended following their red cards in England’s Nations League loss to Denmark, while Conor Coady has been sent home following reported exposure to the virus.
Furthermore, full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, centre back Joe Gomez and midfielder James Ward-Prowse have all been forced out of the squad due to injury, while Marcus Rashford is missing with a shoulder injury.
On a more positive note, manager Gareth Southgate has been able to recall Raheem Sterling into the ranks, and there’s also a place for exciting Man City talent Phil Foden.
Jadon Sancho and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who also found the back of the net against an understrength and limited Eire, will both be pushing for starting berths, as will Jack Grealish.
The in-form Aston Villa man demanded the ball at every turn and looked supremely at ease in that game.
Playing against Belgium though will be a very different prospect for England who, to my mind, are not progressing as positively as many predicted following their 2018 World Cup and 2019 Nations League run.
These two nations met not once but twice at the World Cup in Russia two years ago, when England reached the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time since those halcyon days of 1990.
Belgium won a ‘dead rubber’ of a group game thanks to Adnan Januzaj’s wonderful finish. They met again less than a month later in a third/fourth place play-off when Hazard inspired his countrymen to run out 2-0 winners. To my mind, he was the best player at that year’s tournament, despite Luka Modrić picking up the Golden Ball.
Overall, England have won 16 of their 24 meetings. Ironically, only one of them has come in their five competitive tournament matches.
At Euro 1980, the nations drew 1-1 when the late Ray Wilkins scored the England goal which was quickly cancelled out by René Vandereycken.
They also drew, amazingly, 4-4 at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland when England’s goals were scored by the late great Nat Lofthouse and Ivor Broadis (two apiece).
Their most recent meeting at Wembley last month in this competition saw England emerged 2-1 winners as England found a way to win against the world number one ranked side.
|Belgium vs England||1X2 Belgium @ 2.33|
|November 16, 03:45 (GMT+8)|
Belgium are actually favourites to win the competition with the Sbotop Nations League betting odds, priced @ 4.50, just ahead of world champions France @ 5.00 with holders Portugal @ 7.00 and England @ 8.50.
For this match you can get odds on Belgium 1X2 @ 2.33 and England @ 3.05, with the draw available @ 3.10.
First Half 1X2 options see Belgium priced @ 2.89, England @ 3.60 and the draw @ 2.01.
Belgium are in the midst of an impressive 23-match unbeaten run at home.
A total of 21 nations have tried their luck against Roberto Martinez and his side, yet none of them have managed to walk away victorious.
|A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR () BETS ARE WORTH:|
|= €20 (Highly confident)||= €10 (CONFIDENT)||= €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)|
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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