10 observations on Belgium reaching the last 16

By | June 23, 2014

1. Belgium’s record in the qualifiers – seven goals at home, 11 on the road – show that they are happier playing on the break when teams come at them. This means their chances could improve as they advance in the competition.

2. The selection of the midfield trio is still a problem for Marc Wilmots. Only Axel Witsel is certain to play. No one else has looked convincing; Marouane Fellaini is in essence a ‘Plan B’ when things are going wrong while Kevin De Bruyne has not looked happy in the South American climate.

Axel Witsel - Belgium's most consistent performer (copyright John Chapman)

Axel Witsel – Belgium’s Mr. Consistent (copyright John Chapman)

3. One problem that Wilmots has is that his midfield options – Nacer Chadli, Moussa Dembélé and Steven Defour – are much of a muchness, i.e. they are similar players. Wilmots ‘may’ regret omitting Radja Nainggolan and/or Thorgan Hazard but choosing them would have gone against his ‘keeping the family together’ ethic.

4. In 2011, I wrote “There is a dearth of top-class full backs in Belgium as opposed to central defenders where there is an abundance of quality and experienced performers”. Nothing has changed and teams that do attack Belgium may use this to their advantage.

5. There have been fears that Romelu Lukaku is happiest – possibly like Belgium – when playing on the break rather than as a traditional front man. These fears have been confirmed but he could be useful in the knock-out stages.

6. Choosing Divock Origi to replace Christian Benteke has proved to be an excellent decision by Wilmots. Origi looks like a real player and experienced observers say he is more advanced then Lukaku and Benteke were at a similar stage in their careers.

Divock Origi - his selection was a master stroke.

Divock Origi – his selection was a master stroke.

7. Wilmots is an inexperienced coach. This is the first time he’s been in the job anywhere for more than a year. It’s therefore no surprise that he’s learning his trade as a tactician but he’s a fine man manager and an excellent leader of men.

8. Georges Leekens, Wilmots’ predecessor, hardly ever made a substitution before the 75th minute. Wilmots has made his substitutions early and so far they have all paid off.

9. WARNING ALERT! In 1994, Belgium won their first two games and rested players against Saudi Arabia. Belgium lost that match, came third in the group and had to play Germany, losing 3-2 in Chicago.

10. In the 1986 World Cup, Belgium only won game in the group stage, against Iraq. They qualified as one of the best third-placed teams and then beat the USSR after extra time. In the quarter-final they beat Spain after a penalty shoot-out to reach the semi-finals. So they only won one match in the 90 minute timeframe. As many people say – “anything can happen in the World Cup”.

One thought on “10 observations on Belgium reaching the last 16

  1. Pingback: Day 14 – Teams play, some score goals, a few go out | Fray Bentos

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