Azerbaijan – Belgium match preview

By | September 2, 2011

Belgium play Azerbaijan in Baku tonight in a Euro 2012 qualifier. Despite the local team having defeated Turkey on the same ground back in October, nothing short of an emphatic victory for Belgium is expected. There have been a few complaints about the pitch from the Belgian camp but captain Vincent Kompany is insisting on six points from tonight’s match and that with Kazakhstan in October. That would put pressure on Turkey, favourites to go into the play-offs behind Germany who have almost wrapped up the group.

Guus Hiddink’s Turkey are one point behind Belgium with a game in hand and Tuesday night’s match in Vienna (Austria-Turkey) will be vital. However, if Austria lose tonight against the Germans in Gelsenkirchen, they may feel the game is up. That would certainly help Hiddink’s men.  

Tonight, it looks like Belgium will line up with 11 players who ply their trade outside the national borders. The likely team will consist of five players from the Premier League, three from the Netherlands’ Eredivisie and one each from the Russian, German and Portuguese leagues. It’s a sign of the times that Anderlecht and Club Brugge may have to be satisfied with one player each on the bench while Standard Liege are likely not to be represented at all.

Timmy Simons is certain to play just in front of the back four and win his 85th cap. He was brought back in to the fold by Georges Leekens as the coach feels he’s the type of player who will fight for his country for the full 90 minutes and beyond. Simons will overtake Enzo Scifo (84 caps) tonight and on Tuesday, assuming he plays in the friendly with the USA, he will draw level with Eric Gerets and Franky Van der Elst (86 caps each). That would just leave Jan Ceulemans, the current Westerlo boss (96 caps), as a target for the veteran Nuremberg midfielder.

The only doubt about tonight’s team is, as usual, about Eden Hazard. Leekens is leaning towards Fulham’s Moussa Dembélé and PSV’s Dries Mertens on the flanks as he feels they are more compatible than a Hazard-Mertens pairing. Mertens is in the form of his life with six goals in his last four matches. However, Dembélé may not be 100% fit to start and that could give Hazard another chance to start for his country. One slight surprise could be Leekens decision to play Jan Vertonghen in central defence and move Zenit’s Nic Lombaerts to left back. Certainly Vertonghen seemed uncomfortable on the left in the draw with Turkey

As for Azerbaijan, the team is coached by Bert Vogts and he is not popular. Said to be on €1 million net per annum, he’s seen as a total failure. A couple of local journalists presented Vogts with toilet paper[1] back in June, as they felt that was more appropriate than the wads of ‘paper’ money he was collecting.

Although the Belgian squad has often been spoken of as the ‘Golden Generation’, results have not quite met expectations. It would be good to see a resounding win in Baku for Belgium. As Kompany has said recently, this team has enormous potential.

Likely Team:

Mignolet; Alderweireld, Kompany, Lombaerts, Vertonghen; Simons, Fellaini, Witsel; Dembélé (or Hazard), Lukaku, Mertens

Group positions:

Germany: played 7, won 7; 21 points.

Belgium:  played 7, won 3, drawn 2; 11 points.

Turkey: played 6, won 3, drawn 1; 10 points.

Austria: played 6, won 2, drawn 1, 7 points.

Azerbaijan: played 6, won 1, 3 points.

Kazakhstan: played 6, won 1, 3 points.


[1] According to Reuters.

One thought on “Azerbaijan – Belgium match preview

  1. Morgan

    Excellent job with the web page. I´m from Chile and this page helps me a lot to know about belgian soccer, which i´m a big fan since the Enzo Scifo, Luc Nilis, Franky Van der Elst, Preudhomme, Lorenzo Staelens, Grun, Albert, Wilmots….etc…


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