It probably isn’t an exaggeration to suggest that Roberto Martinez would have been rubbing his hands together when the draw for next summer’s tournament was made. A trip to Russia is about as tough as it gets for Belgium, and they’ll have fond memories of that nation given the marker put down during the 2018 World Cup. They will of course feel more than a tinge of regret about losing to eventual winners France at the penultimate hurdle, but the group of players they have is young enough to go again at least once more.
Back to Thursday’s game, and you’d have to say Belgium are rightly strong favourites for the impending arrival of Russia. True, the visitors exceeded expectations last June after reaching the last sixteen and seeing off Spain, but there’s not much to suggest they’ve retained any of the momentum that served them so well then. Instead, I fancy the hosts to run out comfortable winners with the firepower they have at their disposal for my Belgium vs Russia prediction, making even money on them triumphing by two goals or more a really tempting proposition.
Although widely mocked in England for supposed clumsiness and a lack of the sort of guile we tend to associate with top level players, Romelu Lukaku is quite understandably revered by his countrymen. Already Belgium’s highest ever scorer despite being just 25 years of age, the Manchester United marksman was a vital cog in the side that was probably a bit of good fortune away from lifting their first Jules Rimet trophy. The presence of Lukaku and similarly talented players are what give Belgium fans hope that there could be a repeat of last summer’s performances, with football fans the world over believing this crop of individuals can once again put them on the cusp of achieving something special. Lukaku averages just shy of two goals every three games for the national team, so you’d have to be mad to ignore the 10/11 available on him registering on Thursday night.
They say football is a simple game, so when you pitch Belgium’s likely starting XI against the side expected to be fielded by Russia, you could be forgiven for thinking this might be a forgone conclusion. Since June 2017, the continent’s most populated nation have beaten only Turkey on their travels which goes some way to explaining why they’re so unfancied here. I certainly won’t beat around the bush and give Stanislav Cherchesov’s men absolutely no chance of getting their Euro 2020 qualification campaign off to a flyer.
On the contrary, I see Belgium running out comfortable winners and think Russia’s underlying lack of attacking ambition will ensure the likes of Vincent Kompany have a very easy night.
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