Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.
Every two years, there’s swell of hype around this Belgian squad. This time around, Roberto Martinez is aiming to deliver on that promise. This talented group are going up against Gareth Southgate’s England side in the group stages, will the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard be able to deliver on the world stage? Let’s take a look at Belgium’s timeline this summer, and their potential knockout opponents.
Also, take a look at the Belgian Star we’re backing in the Golden Boot race.
Warm Up Friendlies
Belgium have scheduled three warm up friendlies, all of which are going to be held in the Stade Roi Baudouin in Brussels. While not playing on neutral ground could be a problem, the lack of travelling is smart ahead of a gruelling group stage.
2nd June – Belgium vs Portugal
Belgium’s opening friendly is perhaps their most important, as it’s the closest they’re going to get to meeting top level opposition before the quarter-finals. If they are coming to Russia as genuine contenders, then they’ll want to prove that with a result against the reigning European champions.
6th June – Belgium vs Egypt
Belgium’s group stage preparations begin four days later, as they take on Egypt. This seems like an attempt to prepare for the meeting with Tunisia in Moscow. Seemingly the Belgians have fallen in to the tropical approach of facing their opponents’ neighbours. After a 4-0 home win in their last meeting with Egypt in 2005, the hosts will expect a big win.
11th June – Belgium vs Costa Rica
The Belgians prepare for their meeting with Panama by taking on Costa Rica. The visitors have been busy as Panama’s warm up act, after facing Tunisia in March, along with a June meeting with England just four days before this clash. It’s not the strongest way for them to wrap up before their tournament. However, this game could be a way of gauging the relative strength of Group G’s big two.
Meanwhile, why not take a look at our World Cup Group Winner Predictions?
World Cup Group Stage
18th June – Belgium vs Panama – Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
The Belgians start their World Cup campaign against Panama, who are 1000/1 outsiders for the World Cup. Despite that, they’ll want to hit the ground running. The fact that they start the tournament with their biggest trip makes this clash a little harder, but their attacking talent should run riot here. Should the group come down to goal difference, a big win here would be a boost.
23rd June – Belgium vs Tunisia – Otkritie Arena, Moscow
Belgium have set up their team base in Moscow for this summer’s tournament, so they don’t have far to travel in their second game. This one is a slightly tougher clash, with Tunisia priced up at 750/1 for outright success. However, the African side are preparing for their first World Cup in 12 years, and they’re likely to come here aiming to frustrate the big two. The Red Devils won this clash 1-0 in 2014, but expect a bigger margin here.
28th June – England vs Belgium – Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad
The final group game is set to be a fight for top spot, with both sides expected to take six points from their opening two games. This is a 1,095km trip for the Belgians from their Moscow base, which could leave them jaded in a potentially crucial match. Of course, if they win both games and outscore the Three Lions, then a point here would be enough to top the group.
Take a look at England’s World Cup 2018 Timeline
World Cup Knockout Rounds
2nd July – Belgium vs Colombia – Rostov Arena, Rostov
Belgium are heavy favourites to finish qualify for the knockout round, while they can be backed at odds-on to finish top. However, their opponents after that aren’t that clear. They’ll be taking on opposition from Group H, the most open at this summer’s World Cup. Poland and Colombia are seen as the two who have an edge over Senegal and Japan, and we expect that it’ll be the Colombians who the Belgians will meet in the last 16.
Given the quality of their golden generation, any of Group H’s sides shouldn’t be a match for Belgium. However, if they had a preference it would probably be to avoid Poland. They are a side who have a history of doggedly defending in knockout clashes and pushing for penalties. Colombia seem a much better fit for the Red Devils’ talents, as the South Americans weren’t that strong in qualifying.
The other bonus for Belgians is that this clash is set to take place in Rostov, a quick trip from their Moscow base. That should help them progress through, which would match their best ever World Cup display, from 2014.
6th July – Brazil vs Belgium – Kazan Arena, Kazan
Given that Martinez is in charge of one of the world’s most talented squads, a last 16 appearance isn’t enough for this group. The Belgians are expected to go further, as they look to make the most of their impressive attacking options.
Belgium’s last 16 opponents might be equally matched, but there’s a step up in quality if they reach the last eight. Should they win their group and last 16 tie, they’ll end up in the top half of the draw. We expect it to include Brazil, France and European champions Portugal. They’re likely to meet the South American side in the last eight. However, a small positive is that this clash is also close to their team base. We think the Belgians will make a quarter-final exit, but even if they upset the odds the difficult games don’t stop.
10th July – Portugal vs Belgium – Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg
Having kicked off their warm-up friendlies against Portugal, they could clash with the European champions again in Saint Petersburg in the first of the semi-finals. Of course, this would have been a last four clash in France two years ago, until Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes dumped the Red Devils out. Martinez will be hoping for a last four appearance this summer, which is again a short trip from Moscow. We’d expect Portugal’s international experience to edge out Belgium, although there’s no question around who has the more talented squad.
15th July – Belgium vs Spain – Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Should Belgium go all the way, they’re likely to encounter Spain in the final in Moscow. The 2010 World Cup winners are looking revitalised under Julen Lopetegui, so they’d make for tough opponents. It would be an interesting final for Spaniard Martinez. Given his side’s style of play and the approach of Spain, this would be a thrilling final if it came to pass. However, once again we see Belgium coming up short against quality opposition.
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