21st of March 2019 Author: Johnny Karp
Belgium kick off their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a home match against Russia, the two teams will meet at King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on Thursday. These two are the favourites to qualify from Group I, where they play alongside Scotland, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and San Marino. These two sides have last met in the group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and Belgium won that match 1-0 thanks to a late goal from striker Divock Origi. That was the third consecutive win for Belgium against Russia, including a match played in 1986 against the former USSR.
Belgium were expected to perform a lot better in the UEFA Nations League last fall, they did start with three consecutive wins but then suffered a shocking 5-2 defeat in Switzerland in the last match of the group. With that result they finished second behind the Swiss, who have earned their tickets for the Nations League semi-finals. That defeat was just the second since 2016 for the Swiss, and the other loss was in the 2018 FIFA World Cup final against France last summer. There are plenty of absences for the home side, as Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Meunier, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel are all injured and unable to play in this match.
Russia had a similar route in the UEFA Nations League last year, they seemed set to earn promotion to the top tier after the first three group matches but then lost 2-0 in Sweden in the last match and finished second. That defeat came five days after a 3-0 friendly loss against Germany. Russia had a terrible time at the last European Championship, they finished last in their group with just one point out of three matches. They have qualified for the last four final tournaments of the European Championships and in 2008 they managed to reach the semi-finals.
Belgium: Courtois - Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen - Chadli, Dendoncker, Tielemans, Carrasco - T. Hazard, Mertens, E. Hazard
Russia: Lunes - Fernandes, Semeonov, Dzhikyia, Kudryashov - Ozdoev, Gazinskiy - Ionov, Golovin, Cheryshev - Dzyuba
My prediction: Belgium to win 3-1, the home side is much stronger, despite all the injury worries.
Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:
Belgium win - 1.30
Draw - 5.50
Russia win - 9.00
21st of March 2019
Belgium is by far the top dog in this group and looking at their squad we could easily see why is that.
The first couple of test have been past quite successfully so we don't expect to see them struggle in any of the upcoming games especially having in mind this looks one of the easiest groups...from a favorite perspective anyway.
Probably the English and Belgium fans could already start dreaming of EURO 2020 big achievements and right now that looks like a quite possible future for both sides.
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