Belgium vs. Belarus 3/30/21 World Cup Qualifications Soccer
Belgium have had a mixed start to their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, with their 3-1 triumph over Wales followed by a recent 1-1 draw with Czech Republic on the weekend. It has left them trailing the Czechs in second place in Group E although the European giants have more than enough time to make up the lost ground
Belgium has started these qualifications well, with a nice home win against Wales, but they have slipped on the road against the Czech Republic a few days ago. Belgium has had 63% of ball possession in that game, 4 shots on goal, 3 corner kicks, 2 big chances created, and 80% of the correct passes. Despite being the dominant team in this matchup, Belgium couldn’t score a goal, but they conceded in the 50th minute. Luckily for Belgium, they have been able to tie the score in the 60th minute. The final score of this game was 1-1. Belgium is now in second place in their group with 4 points, which is the same number as the Czech Republic has at the top. Lukaku is the leading goalscorer for Belgium with 2 goals, while Hazard and De Bruyne have added 1 goal each. Same as many teams, Belgium is struggling in these qualifications and they are inconsistent, but Belgium is still one of the best teams in the world, and they are playing some of the best soccer. I don’t doubt Belgium will qualify for the World Cup, but the Euro Cup this summer is their priority.
Belarus has been playing solid soccer as of late, but all the teams they played against are weak teams like Estonia, Albania, and Honduras. Belarus has played only 1 qualifications game so far in this cycle, and it was against Estonia at home. Belarus has been outstanding in this match with 63% of ball possession, 5 shots on goal, 5 corner kicks, 3 big chances created, and 69% of the correct passes. Belarus was losing twice in this match, but thanks to Estonia conceding a red card in the 77th minute, Belarus has scored 3 unanswered goals, and they have won this match 4-2. With this win, Belarus’ has some hope they can get to second place, but these qualifications have just started, and I think it’s only a matter of time before Belarus starts sinking in the standings. Lisakovich is the leading goalscorer for Belarus with 2 goals, while Kendysha and Savitskiy added 1 goal each. Lisakovich and Podstrelov are by far the best player in this Belarus’ team, and they are expected to be in the starting lineup, but it’s not nearly enough for Belarus to keep winning games, especially against the strong teams.
On Tuesday, the Red Devils prepare for their final game in this year’s first international break as they play hosts to Belarus in the Dan Dreef Stadion in Leuven. It could be a vital game for the hosts, knowing a victory could potentially put them back on top, especially with Czech Republic facing a tricky contest against Wales on the same day.
Belarus, though, are hoping to emerge as the surprise package in this group, having registered a 4-2 victory over Estonia in the first game. It has left them in third place currently, although that could change real soon as Mikhail Markel’s men take on one of the best national teams in the world.
It is also an away game for the eastern European nation, and despite the lack of audience, they should be well aware of Belgium’s dominance in the home turf – making them the obvious underdogs in this affair. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this highly crucial Group E encounter in the European qualifiers this midweek.
Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez made a few notable rotations to the team that faced Czech Republic. So one could argue that the team selection for this particular game could solely be decided on merit, with Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne almost guaranteed starters this midweek.
Lukaku, in particular, was the starring figure in the draw with Czech Republic and his physical presence could be critical in the tip of the Belgian attack. The Inter Milan forward should be supported by the creative duo of De Bruyne and Leandro Trossard, who is likely to step in for Dries Mertes after the veteran picked up a knock in the last game.
Martinez, though, does, to an extent, lack options at the base of his preferred 3-4-2-1 formation, especially Axel Witsel out injured. It should see Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker start together for the third time in a row, hoping to offer stability and aggression in the middle of the park.
There might be one change out wide as well, with the more direct Thorgan Hazard replacing Nacer Chadli on the left flank. The Borussia Dortmund star offers more penetration and skill on the ball, both of which could be useful against a Belarus defence that is likely to operate in a low block. It means both Timothy Castagne and Hazard could almost camp themselves in the opposition half.
Defensively, Martinez could hand Brandon Mechele the opportunity ahead of Jason Denayer at the heart of the three-man backline, partnered by the two veteran centre-backs in Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonhen on either side. They will look to protect Thibaut Courtois in goal, with the Real Madrid goalkeeper desperate for a clean sheet this time around.
Belarus manager Mikhail Markhel usually prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation that offers his side the numerical advantage in the final third as well as a perfect symmetry in transition. And although the 54-year-old is likely to continue with a similar shape, it could be slightly tricky against a 3-4-2-1 that could leave them at a disadvantage in midfield.
As a result, we may see the Belarus side largely relying on long balls out from the back, hoping to pick out runners like Denis Laptev or the wide attackers in Igor Stasevich and Pavel Savitskiy, with Marks Ebong and Ivan Bakhar providing further options upfront.
If the long balls do not work, Belarus could depend on the creative prowess of their number ten in Vitali Lisakovich, who bagged a brace in the comeback win over Estonia. He remains the key player for the visitors heading into this encounter.
Defensively, the midfielders in Yuri Kendysh and Evgeni Yablonski will be well aware of their duties in the second line of press as they look to protect the four-man backline, consisting of Roman Yozepchuk, Maksim Bordachev, Nikita Naumov and Nikolai Zolotov.
Romelu Lukaku is undoubtedly the most important player for Belgium at the moment, having starred in the first two matches in the European qualifiers so far. His robust presence in the final third has made it difficult for defenders to keep him quiet so far, which was evident in the recent draw with Czech Republic.
However, aside from his physicality, Lukaku has greatly improved his quality on the ball. He is much more technical and can provide seamless transition which also lets him gel well alongside de Bruyne. It is why Belgium have managed to keep up their attacking endeavours despite the absence of star player Eden Hazard.
As for Belarus, it will be imperative for them to keep a close eye on Lukaku if they are to salvage anything from this game. The key will be to cut off the creative supply, most likely by offering minimal space in between the lines.
Having secured a brilliant victory over Estonia in the last game, Belarus will be heading into this game full of confidence and are not an opposition to be taken lightly. However, in Belgium, they will face a stern test especially when it comes to remaining defensively solid against a world-class attacking unit. And with the added home advantage, we expect the Red Devils to secure a relatively comfortable victory in Leuven this midweek.