Belgium will face a stern test of their mettle when they head to Prague to face an in-form Czech Republic side on Saturday.
Jaroslav Silhavy’s men opened their World Cup qualification campaign by thrashing Estonia 6-2 on Wednesday. They went 1-0 down, but Bayer Leverusken forward Patrik Schick quickly equalised and Antonin Barak put the Czech Republic 2-1 up.
West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek then banged in a hat-trick and Jakub Jankto added a sixth, before Henri Anier scored a late consolation for Estonia. The result left Silhavy’s side top of the group, but they are unlikely to retain that position for long.
Belgium are number one in the FIFA world rankings after enjoying a consistent run of form over the past couple of years. They cemented that status by beating Wales 3-1 in midweek.
Harry Wilson handed the Welsh a shock lead, but Kevin De Bruyne restored parity by lashing in a long-range drive. Thorgan Hazard headed the Belgians in front on 28 minutes, and Romelu Lukaku wrapped up the win from the penalty spot in the second half.
It is easy to see why Belgium are rated so highly. Real Madrid winger Eden Hazard is out injured, but the team is bursting with talent. De Bruyne is arguably the world’s best midfielder, Youri Tielemans is also supremely composed on the ball, Dries Mertens is always dangerous and Lukaku is a force of nature in attack.
Belgium typically have enough firepower to overwhelm even the most stubborn of opponents, and they should cause all sorts of problems for the Czech Republic this weekend.
Belgium’s only weakness could be in defence. Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld are 33, 35 and 32 respectively, and a lack of pace and mobility can sometimes cause problems.
However, they work pretty well in a back three, and manager Roberto Martinez deploys Thorgan Hazard and Thomas Meunier as rapid wing-backs, ensuring they are rarely caught out down the flanks.
They may not keep a clean sheet against the Czech Republic, but they should still dominate possession, so they are unlikely to give the opposition too many chances in this game.
Silhavy’s men have been in good form in recent months. They secured back-to-back wins over Israel and Slovakia before beating Estonia. However, they lost home and away to Scotland towards the end of 2020, which does not bode particularly well for a game against Belgium.
On the flipside, they did beat England in 2019, so they have the ability to mix it with high-quality opposition. Yet their defensive record leaves a lot to be desired. If a team concedes twice against Estonia, you start to wonder how many they will concede against a Belgian team led by De Bruyne and Lukaku.
Belgium are priced at 33/50 (1.66) with MansionBet to win this game, which looks pretty tempting. After all, they have beaten Wales, Denmark, England, Switzerland and Iceland in their last five games, and had a 100% record in their qualification campaign for the Euros.
For a bit more value, Betway has a very appealing price of even money (2.00) on Belgium and over 1.5 goals. Belgium’s last 20 games have gone over 1.5 goals, and they have won 18 of them, so recent history is definitely on their side.