Belgium will meet Ireland at the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux on 18/06/16 as both teams look to secure their first victory at Euro 2016. Our SBAT preview will bring you a form guide, team news and a betting preview.
Belgium produced an extremely underwhelming opening night performance in their first match at the European Championships since being joint-hosts at Euro 2000, losing 2-0 to a spirited Italy side. Antonio Conte’s men stood firm in defence and took when their chances when the opportunity arrived, first with Emmanuele Giaccherini who produced a neat finish when through one-v-one with Thibaut Courtois to give the Azzurri a relatively surprising lead. Belgium continued to press but were unable to find a breakthrough, finding themselves hitting a firm wall in the Italian back three and Gigi Buffon behind them. With Belgium committing bodies forward they were hit with a sucker punch late on as the Italians broke away in stoppage time, culminating in Graziano Pelle slamming home to leave Marc Wilmots’ team with an uphill challenge to get out of the group. Kevin De Bruyne came under criticism for his performance against Italy on Monday evening and his coach has since come to his defence, with Wilmots worried that the Manchester City is feeling the fatiguing effects of a harsh Premier League season. Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku also failed to fire to the level we know they are capable of, whilst Divock Origi also had opportunities to equalise with the score at 1-0. Still littered with individual talent, it’s far too early to write this team off who have stars that possess the ability to change the game in a second.
Ireland were misfortunate to only leave the Stade de France in Paris with a single point after drawing 1-1 with Sweden; a result which means the team have already exceeded their points tally from their appearance at Euro 2012 where they crashed out at the group stage with three defeats. Martin O’Neill’s side started the game rampantly and had by far the better of play as Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick both came close to opening the scoring. Despite the pressure, they went in at the break level but wasted little time in the second half to get themselves on the scoresheet as Wes Hoolahan’s sweet strike put them a goal to the good. Overall, the Irish defence did a good job of keeping Zlatan Ibrahimovic quiet – who has now failed to score in five matches when up against John O’Shea – but the big Swede did create his side’s equaliser as his low cross was put in by the unfortunate Ciaran Clark. Although they didn’t get the three points they deserved, the manner of the performance left O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane with plenty of positives to take away from the match with a number of positive individual showings on display. Midfielder Hendrick was tenacious and competitive in his work, Hoolahan continuously found pockets of space in front of the Sweden back four and Brady was an uninterrupted outlet down the left. Now playing up against one of the tournament favourites, they will have to drawn on all of their fight and passion if they are to get a result in this one.
Belgium have a clean bill of health coming into this fixture, leaving Marc Wilmots with the option to name unchanged lineup. However, after seeing a number of his team underperform against Italy, he may decide to make changes for this clash.
Ireland forward Jon Walters is a doubt after a recurrence of an achilles injury which troubled him from the first minute of their clash with Sweden. O’Neill must decide whether to bring in record goalscorer Robbie Keane or winger James McClean if he wants to go with a more conservative approach.