Mark O’Haire’s Euro Tips – Belgium v Rep Of Ireland
Belgium v Rep of Ireland
Belgium and the Republic of Ireland go head-to-head in Bordeaux on Saturday afternoon knowing defeat could spell disaster in their quest to reach the Euro 2016 knockout stages.
Belgium v Republic of Ireland, Saturday 18th June 2016, 14.00, ITV & RTE2
Ireland were unfortunate not to beat Sweden in their opener, picking up a point in the Stade de France. The well-fancied Belgians were expected to see off a poor Italy squad but fell to a convincing 2-0 loss.
Despite only having qualified for one major tournament in the past 14 years, Belgium came to France as Europe’s top-ranked side and one of the favourites to triumph in Paris on July 10th.
But the Red Devils were hugely disappointing and appeared bereft of ideas in possession. Romelu Lukaku and Divock Origi both wasted opportunities but the defeat was a result of superior organisation and discipline in the Italian camp.
Belgium’s status is built around the attacking potential and club-forged reputation of individuals such as Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Lukaku, as opposed to consistent evidence of a cohesive international team.
Marc Wilmots’ men had 18 efforts on goal against the Azzurri but only three were on-target and just five taken from inside the penalty box. And the Devils did little to suggest they are ready to convert their promise into something concrete on the big stage.
Belgium were pedestrian in the first half, failing to get in behind the Italian backline, with De Bruyne particularly isolated. They upped the speed after the break but still struggled to test Gianluigi Buffon.
Equally as worrying for Belgium was the performance of their defence. Already without the injured Vincent Kompany, they looked particularly vulnerable with Jan Vertonghen deployed at left-back instead of alongside his Tottenham colleague Toby Alderweireld in the centre.
Thomas Vermaelen was operating at centre back despite missing the majority of last season through injury and Wilmots’ men have now managed just one clean sheet in their last 12 and have shipped goals in each of their last eight – their longest run without a clean sheet for 30 years!
That should give Ireland plenty of encouragement this weekend with Martin O’Neill’s men still ruing a missed three points against Sweden. The Swedes failed to register a single shot-on-target with Ciaran Clark’s agonising own goal levelling the scores after Wes Hoolahan’s sumptuous opener.
O’Neill’s team had struck the woodwork and gone close several times prior to scoring, showing no lack of adventure and ambition in the capital. Robbie Brady was a menace down the left and Jeff Hendrick impressive in midfield as the Republic took the game to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co.
O’Neill said post-match, “I think they should be absolutely thrilled with the way we played” and should the Boys In Green repeat that performance here they should go close to picking up a maiden competitive victory over Belgium (W0-D5-L2).
The Irish have suffered just two defeats in 15 now and have shown they’re more than capable of frustrating more established nations on the world stage.
And considering the Republic have notched in all bar four of their past 23 meaningful matches, grabbing a goal should certainly be on the agenda.
The 23/20 on Ireland/Draw in the Double Chance seems more than fair whilst the 8/13 for Ireland to score Over 0.5 Goals is also worthy of our interest here with the 1-1 paying out at 11/2 also an angle to pursue.
Rep of Ireland or Draw Double Chance (23/20)
Rep of Ireland to score Over 0.5 Goals (8/13)
1-1 Correct Score (11/2)
*Prices correct at time of publication