England vs Belgium
Whenever I think of this fixture, I cast my mind back to what incredibly is now 30 years ago.
I was still at school and had just returned from our annual summer concert when I switched on the television with seconds of extra-time remaining to watch Paul Gascoigne float a free kick into the Belgium penalty area. One swivel later from David Platt and this joyous teenager was gleefully leaping around his front room.
Granted, much has changed since then but that remains the abiding memory of this fixture for me and probably always will.
Now as these football passionate countries prepare to meet again in the UEFA Nations League, can there be a repeat?
Well, yes it is possible as both nations possess plenty of match winners and will be keen to make a statement ahead of next summer’s delayed Euro 2020.
Belgium saw their run of 12 straight wins end on Thursday night when they were held at home by the Ivory Coast, yet the Belgians rested almost all their regulars ahead of their visit to Wembley.
Likewise, England did the same when they saw off Wales in a friendly, presumably with this game in mind.
Boss Gareth Southgate has warned his players who missed out for breaching COVID-19 rules that they face a battle to get back into the team, although personally I think he will always find a place for Jadon Sancho in his strongest starting XI.
I expect the likes of Sancho, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Maguire, and captain Harry Kane to be among those returning on Sunday.
Despite all the feel-good factor emanating from England under Southgate and despite that the Three Lions have enjoyed some super results over the last three years, their class of 2020 falls well short in my opinion.
In contrast, this Belgium side is possibly the best international side it has ever produced, containing the likes of Premier League footballer of the year Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and goal-getter Romelu Lukaku.
Southgate’s side followed up an unconvincing win over Iceland with a concerning 0-0 draw against Denmark last month, while Belgium had no such issues as they claimed maximum points against the Nordic countries.
So if ever there was a proverbial six-pointer in the UEFA Nations League group stages, this would be it.
With all that being considered, we can genuinely expect UEFA Nations League highlights this weekend.
These two nations met not once but twice at the World Cup in Russia two years ago, when England reached the semifinals 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 15 of their 23 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 was in a friendly eight years ago and was settled by a solitary goal from Danny Welbeck.
|England vs Belgium||Over 2.50 @ 2.05|
|October 12, 00:00 (GMT+8)|
On both occasions two years ago, Belgium were victorious and it’s hard to argue against the fact they likely would be again when it really matters.
Whether this contest constitutes a game that really matters though, is debatable.
The UEFA Nations League betting odds points at two closely matched outfits.
England are priced 1X2 @ 2.79 with the visitors 1X2 @ 2.49.
The draw @ 3.10 has caught my eye and so has the chance of a 1-1 draw with the correct score odds which will pay out @ 5.20.
A repeat of their last meeting, when the Belgians triumphed 2-0, is on offer @ 13.00.
Or will England edge the contest as they did last time they met at Wembley, in 2012 – correct score 1-0 is available @ 8.00.
This is tricky to predict and if this was at a World Cup or European Championships, this SBOTOP writer would back the Belgians.
|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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