With arguably the strongest squad in the tournament, Belgium are expected to contend for the title.

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Belgium World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide

Belgium same second in the 2018 World Cup.


Belgium vs England – 3rd Place Playoff – July 14th, Saint Petersburg Match Report

Match preview here.

Belgium Starting XI: 1 Thibaut Courtois, 2 Toby Alderweireld, 4 Vincent Kompany , 5 Jan Vertonghen, 6 Axel Witsel, 7 Kevin De Bruyne, 9 Romelu Lukaku (14 Dries  Mertens 60), 10 Eden Hazard, 15 Thomas Meunier, 17 Youri Tielemans (19 Moussa Dembele 78), 22 Nacer Chadli (3 Thomas Vermaelen 39)

England Starting XI: 1 Jordan Pickford, 3 Danny Rose (19 Marcus Rashford 46), 4 Eric Dier, 5 John Stones , 6 Harry Maguire, 9 Harry Kane, 10 Raheem Sterling (7 Jesse Lingard 46), 12 Kieran Trippier, 16 Phil Jones, 17 Fabian Delph, 21 Ruben Loftus-Cheek (20 Dele Alli 84)

Saint Petersburg

Belgium 2 England 0

Scorers

Belgium: Meunier 4, Hazard 82

Match overview

Belgium record their best-ever World Cup performance, an improvement on their fourth place in 1986, after a comfortable victory over England.

Belgium take an early lead and could have added a second goal but Jordan Pickford stops Kevin De Bruyne’s deflected shot.

In the second half Belgium tire and England enjoy more possession and create more chances, notably for Eric Dier, whose shot is cleared off the line by Toby Alderweireld. But Harry Kane, who is keen to score to seal his position as Golden Boot winner, is not fully fit and Belgium again hit on the break. Meunier almost scores a wondergoal with a volley before Eden Hazard adds a second on another break.

Matter of fact

Thomas Meunier was Belgium’s 10th different scorer in the tournament.

Talking point

Belgium made two changes to the starting line-up that faced France in the semi-final, whereas England changed five of their team from the team that started against Croatia.

Stats

Belgium/England

Possession (%): 43/57

Goal attempts: 12/15

Attempts on target: 4/5

Corners: 4/5

Fouls: 11/5

Pass accuracy (%): 88/92

Distance covered (km): 108/110


Belgium vs France – Semi-Final (10th July) – Saint Petersburg Match Report

Match preview here.

Belgium Starting XI: 1 Thibaut Courtois2 Toby Alderweireld, 4 Vincent Kompany, 5 Jan Vertonghen, 6 Axel Witsel, 7 Kevin De Bruyne8 Marouane Fellaini (11 Yannick Carrasco 80), 9 Romely Lukaku10 Eden Hazard19 Mousa Dembele (14 Dries Mertens 60), 22 Nacer Chadli (21 Michy Batshuayi 90+1)

France Starting XI: 1 Hugo Lloris2 Benjamin Pavard4 Raphael Varane5 Samuel Umtiti, 6 Paul Pogba, 7 Antoine Griezmann9 Olivier Giroud (15 Steven Nzoni 85), 10 Kylian Mbappe, 13 N’Golo Kante, 14 Blaise Matuidi (12 Corentin Tolisso 87), 21 Lucas Hernandez

St Petersburg

France 1 Belgium 0

Scorer

France: Umtiti 51

Match overview

France reached their third World Cup Final after Samuel Umtiti’s towering header from a corner was enough to see off Belgium in an absorbing meeting in St Petersburg.

Belgium made a bright start, with Eden Hazard a constant threat on the left flank. But after Hugo Lloris produced a brilliant save to deny Toby Alderweireld from a corner, France’s midfield asserted control. But while France enjoyed defensive structure and discipline, at the other end Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud both missed chances,

with Giroud scuffing the best chance, from Kylian Mbappe’s excellent lay-off. The teenager also played in Benjamin Pavard, but Thibaut Courtois produced an outstanding save to keep the game goalless at the break.

Giroud continued to struggle to get a shot on target but when his effort was blocked by Vincent Kompany for a corner, Umtiti rose at the near post to head home for the only goal of the game.

France maintained defensive control for the rest of the game, sitting deep and inviting Belgium to find a way through. A brilliant backheel from Mbappe played in Giroud, who again shot over.

Substitute Dries Mertens brought more purpose to Belgium’s right flank, but Marouane Fellaini headed his cross inches wide. Romelu Lukaku was well marshalled by French centre-backs, Umtiti and the outstanding Raphael Varane, but when he did find space, from Yannick Carrasco’s drilled cross, he could not connect.

Kevin De Bruyne and Hazard, who found themselves closed down and denied space at every turn by France, shot wide and high from distance. It was not to be Belgium’s night.

Samuel Umtiti heads in the winner against Belgium (Getty Images)

Matter of fact

Belgium were the first team to reach the semi-finals by beating countries from five different federations: Panama (CONCACAF), Tunisia (Africa), England (Europe), Japan (Asia) and Brazil (CONMEBOL).

Samuel Umtiti became the third French defender to score in Russia, along with Raphael Varane and Benjamin Pavard, matching the achievement of Bixente Lizerazu, Laurent Blanc and Lilian Thuram in 1998.

Talking point

An enthralling game between two outstanding teams who were, technically and tactically, the two best sides left in the competition. It would have made a worthy final.

Stats

France/Belgium

Possession (%): 40/60

Goal attempts: 19/9

Attempts on target: 8/5

Corners: 4/5

Fouls: 6/16

Pass accuracy (%): 86/90

Distance covered (km): 102/102


Belgium vs Brazil – Quarter Final (6th July) – Kazan Match Report

Match preview here.

Belgium Starting XI: 1 Thibaut Courtois, 2 Toby Alderweirald, 4 Vincent Kompany, 5 Jan Vertonghen, 6 Axel Witsel, 7 Kevin De Bruyne, 8 Marouane Fellaini, 9 Romelu Lukaku (17 Youri Tielemans 87), 10 Eden Hazard, 15 Thomas Meunier, 22 Nacer Chadli (2 Thomas Vermaelen 83)

Brazil Starting XI: 1 Alisson, 2 Thiago Silva, 3 Miranda, 9 Gabriel Jesus (7 Douglas Costa 58), 10 Neymar, 11 Philippe Coutinho, 12 Marcelo, 15 Paulinho (8 Renato Augusto 73), 17 Fernandinho, 19 Willian (20 Roberto Firmino 46), 22 Fagner

Brazil 1 Belgium 2

Scorers

Brazil: Renato Augusto 76

Belgium: Fernandhinho 13og, De Bruyne 31

Match overview

Belgium reached their second ever World Cup semi-final after an enthralling game in Kazan. Brazil had no answer to the Belgian front three of Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard and though they mounted a spirited second-half comeback could not prevent their exit from the tournament.

Brazil had good chances from two corners in the first 10 minutes but Thiago Silva and Paulinho both fluffed their lines. Instead it was Belgium who took the lead from a corner, Vincent Kompany’s header deflecting in off the unfortunate Fernandinho.

Brazil were without the suspended Casemiro and Belgium, with Marouane Fellaini brought in to reinforce midfield, won the central battle against Fernandinho and Paulinho. That allowed De Bruyne to thrive in more forward role and he scored a wonderful second goal when Belgium broke at speed following a Brazil corner.

The second-half introduction of Roberto Firmino and Douglas Costa gave Brazil more purpose in the final third and their last sub, Renato Augusto, made an instant impact when his header brought Brazil back into the game.

Renato Augusto and Coutinho missed chances to take the match into extra time, and when Thibaut Courtois saved brilliantly from Coutinho in stoppage time, Brazil’s time at the tournament was up.

Matter of fact

This was the first time Brazil have conceded two goals in a game under Tite.

Talking point

Brazil were aggrieved when Vincent Kompany tripped Gabriel Jesus but VAR ruled out the penalty. Neymar also had a late appeal turned down when he missed a header under Thomas Meunier’s challenge; earlier Brazil’s number 10 should have been booked for a dive in the penalty area, but a booking would have ruled him out of a semi-final.

Stats

Brazil/Belgium

Possession (%): 57/43

Goal attempts: 26/7

Attempts on target: 8/3

Corners: 8/4

Fouls: 14/16

Pass accuracy (%): 88/83

Distance covered (km): 104/105


Belgium vs Japan – Round of 16 (2nd July), Rostov-on-Don – Match Report

Belgium Starting XI: 1 Thibaut Courtois, 2 Toby Alderweirald, 4 Vincent Kompany, 5 Jan Vertonghen, 6 Axel Witsel, 7 Kevin De Bruyne9 Romelu Lukaku10 Eden Hazard11 Yannick Carrasco (22 Nacer Chadli 65), 14 Dries Mertens (8 Marouane Fellaini 65), 15 Thomas Meunier

Japan Starting XI: 1 Eiji Kawashina, 3 Gen Shoji, 5 Yuto Nagatomo, 7 Gaku Shibasaki (16 Hotaru Yamaguchi 81), 8 Genki Haraguchi (4 Keisuke Honda 81), 10 Shinji Kagawa, 14 Takeshi Inui, 15 Yuya Osako, 17 Makoto Hasebe, 19 Hiroki Sakai, 22 Maya Yoshida

Rostov-on Don

Belgium 3 Japan 2

Scorers

Belgium: Vertonghen 69, Fellaini 74, Chadli 90+4

Japan: Haraguchi 48, Inui 52

Match overview

Belgium staged one of the most astonishing comebacks ever seen at a World Cup to recover from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2 and set up a quarter-final against Brazil.

Japan surprised Belgium in the first half by pressing high up the pitch and denying the favourites time and space. Fears that Japan might not sustain their level of pressure after the break were blown away in four incredible minutes when Japan twice stunned Belgium.

After Eden Hazard hit a post and Romelu Lukaku headed wide from close range, it looked as if Belgium were heading out. But a double substitution restored the balance to the Belgian midfield in a breathtaking final half-hour, when Marouane Fellaini and Jan Vertonghen both scored.

Despite losing their two-goal lead, Japan pushed for the win until the end, opening themselves up for the counter-attack and Belgium scored with the last move of the game.

Matter of fact

The last time a side came from 2-0 down to win in the knockout stages in normal time was West Germany against Hungary in the 1954 Final.

Talking point

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez made crucial substitutions that changed the game. Marouane Fellaini brought more phyicality the Belgian midfield, allowing Kevin De Bruyne to play further forward, while Nacer Chadli scored the dramatic winner.

Stats

Belgium/Japan

Possession (%): 56/44

Goal attempts: 24/11

Attempts on target: 10/4

Corners: 10/6

Fouls: 13/9

Pass accuracy (%): 87/83

Distance covered (km): 108/109


Belgium vs England (28th June) Match Report

Match preview here. 

Belgium Starting XI: 1 Thibaut Courtois, 3 Thomas Vermaelen (4 Vincent Kompany 74), 8 Marouane Fellaini, 16 Thorgan Hazard, 17 Youri Tielemans, 18 Adnan Januzaj (14 Dries Mertens 86), 19 Mousa Dembele, 20 Dedryck Boyata, 21 Michy Batshuayi, 22 Nacer Chadli, 23 Leander Dendoncker

England Starting XI: 1 Jordan Pickford, 3 Danny Rose, 4 Eric Dier, 5 John Stones (6 Harry Maguire 46), 11 Jamie Vardy, 15 Gary Cahill, 16 Phil Jones, 17 Fabian Delph, 19 Marcus Rashford, 21 Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 22 Trent Alexander-Arnold (14 Danny Welbeck 79)

Kaliningrad

England 0 Belgium 1

Scorers

Belgium: Januzaj 51

Match overview

A brilliant goal from Adnan Januzaj sealed victory for Belgium, who claimed top place in the group but were also handed a potentially trickier route to the knockout stage’s later rounds.

With both teams already qualified for the last 16, reserve players got their opportunity to shine; Belgium made nine changes to England’s eight.

It was a more intense contest than some had predicted but chances were few and far between. Belgium’s players looked the more comfortable and Januzaj claimed the game’s only goal when he tricked his way inside left-back Danny Rose and fired past Jordan Pickford.

England’s best chance fell to Marcus Rashford, whose shot was tipped wide by Thibaut Courtois.

Matter of fact

This was England’s first defeat for 12 months under Southgate.

Talking point

Did they or didn’t they? Belgium coach Roberto Martinez had admitted “the priority was not to win” but his bench celebrated with Gusto when Januzaj scored.

Stats

England/Belgium

Possession (%): 48/52

Goal attempts: 13/15

Attempts on target: 7/4

Corners: 7/2

Fouls: 11/14

Pass accuracy (%): 86/88

Distance covered (km): 109/106


Belgium vs Tunisia (23rd June) Match Report

Match preview here

Belgium Starting XI: 1 Thibaut Courtois, 2 Toby Alderweirald, 5 Jan Vertonghen, 6 Axel Witsel, 7 Kevin De Bruyne, 9 Romelu Lukaku (8 Marouane Fellaini 59), 10 Eden Hazard (21 Michy Batshuayi 68), 11 Yannick Carrasco, 14 Dries Mertens (17 Youri Tielemans 86), 15 Thomas Meunier, 20 Dedryck Boyata

Tunisia Starting XI: 1 Farouk Ben Mustapha, 2 Syam Ben Youssef (3 Yohan Benalouane 41), 4 Yassine Meriah, 7 Saif Khaoui, 8 Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, 9 Anice Badri, 10 Wahbi Khazri, 11 Dylan Bronn (21 Hamdi Naguez 24), 12 Ali Maaloul, 13 Ferjani Sassi (23 Naim Sliti 60), 17 Ellyes Skhiri

Moscow Spartak

Belgium  5 Tunisia 2

Scorers

Belgium: Hazard 6, 51, Lukaku 16, 45+3, Batshuayi 90

Tunisia: Bronn 17, Khazri 90+3

Match overview

Belgium reached the knockout stage in style, ripping through a fragile Tunisia defence thanks to goals from Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Michi Batshuayi.

Tunisia lost two defenders to injury in the first half and left plenty of space for Belgium to exploit as they tried to get back in the game. Substitute Batshuayi saw three chances cleared off the line before scoring Belgium’s fifth goal.

Lukaku scores Belgium’s third goal against Tunisia (Getty Images)

Matter of fact

For the first time in World Cup history, the first 27 games of the tournament all featured goals.

Talking point

Romelu Lukaku, with four goals, became Belgium’s top scorer at a World Cup but was taken off after an hour before he had a chance to complete his hat-trick. His departure prompted speculation that he might be rested for the final group game against England.  

Stats

Belgium/Tunisia

Possession (%): 52.48

Goal attempts: 25/15

Attempts on target: 8/6

Corners: 5/2

Fouls: 12/13

Pass accuracy (%): 81/79

Distance covered (km): 104/102


Belgium vs Panama (18th June) Match Report

The superstar team of Belgium face lowly Panama in a game everyone expects the Belgians to win. Match preview here. 

Belgium Starting XI: 1 Thibaut Courtois2 Toby Alderweirald, 5 Jan Vertonghen, 6 Axel Witsel (22 Nacer Chadli 90), 7 Kevin De Bruyne9 Romelu Lukaku10 Eden Hazard11 Juan Carrasco (19 Mousa Dembele 74), 14 Dries Mertens (16 Thorgan Hazard 83), 15 Thomas Meunier, 20 Dedryck Boyata

Panama Starting XI: 1 Jaime Penedo, 2 Michael Murillo, 4 Fidel Escobar, 5 Roman Torres, 6 Gabriel Gomez, 7 Blas Perez (18 Luis Tejada 73), 8 Edgar Barcenas (9 Gabriel Torres 63), 11 Armando Cooper, 15 Erick Davis, 20 Anibal Godoy, 21 Jose Luis Rodriguez (10 Ismael Diaz 63)

Sochi

Belgium 3 Panama 0

Scorers:

Panama: none

Belgium: Mertens 47, Lukaku 69, 75

Match overview

Belgium eventually overran debutants Panama in their opening game thanks to an improved second-half performance in Sochi.

Belgium were lethargic for much of the first half, failing to press a well-organised, deep-lying Panamanian side. The breakthrough came through a moment of individual brilliance from Dries Mertens shortly after the break.

Panama heads did not drop after conceding and they had several chances before two Romelu Lukaku goals confirmed the Belgian victory.

Matter of fact

Romelu Lukaku became the first Belgian to score twice in a World Cup game since Marc Wilmots in 1998. 

Talking point

Romulu Lukaku received very little quality service throughout the match – with the exception of two passes: one from De Bruyne for his headed goal, the other from Hazard for his second, and Belgium’s third.

Stats

Belgium/Panama

Possession (%): 61/39

Goal attempts: 15/6

Attempts on target: 7/4

Corners: 9/3

Fouls: 17/18

Pass accuracy (%): 89/82

Distance covered (km): 102/100


Belgium World Cup Guide

Belgium qualified for the 2018 World Cup from a group where Bosnia-Herzegovina were their main rivals. They scored a record number of goals, 43, while conceding only six. Yet defensive concerns remain and injuries to key players could lead to disaster – just as they did in France in 2016.

Key Moments in Qualifying

Oct 2016
Belgium convincingly beat their main rivals Bosnia 4-0 in Brussels.
Aug 2017
Roberto Martinez omits Radja Nainggolan from his squad to meet Gibraltar and Greece, which causes a media frenzy.
Sep 2017
Belgium beat Greece 2-1 in Athens and become the first European team to qualify for Russia.
Oct 2017
Belgium win 4-3 in Sarajevo after trailing Bosnia at half-time. Three days later, Belgium score four against Cyprus to equal Germany’s record for goals scored in a qualifying round.

Belgium World Cup Group

Belgium are the top side in Group G. The other three are Panama, Tunisia, and England.

Belgium World Cup Friendlies

Belgium beat Saudi Arabia on the 27th March by four goals to nil. Then they played  Portugal, Egypt on the 2nd and 6th respectively drawing one and winning the other. Costa Rica were their final opponents and they hammered them 4-1.

Belgium World Cup Fixtures

Belgium start off their tournament against Panama on the 18th of June. Tunisia follow five days later, and finally they play England on the 28th June, which could potentially be a pivotal match.

The Coach

Roberto Martinez, age 44, (13.07.73)
Appointed in August 2016 with a contract running to the end of 2018, he was something of a surprise choice as the Royal Belgian Football Association had wanted a coach with international experience. Although his continental involvement was limited to an Everton run in the Europa League, on the plus side he has extensive knowledge of the Premier League, which is home to half of the Belgian squad, and led Wigan Athletic to FA Cup success in 2013.

Tactician: Martinez has little international experience but has had FA Cup success with Wigan in 2013 (Getty Images)

The Players
Stars
Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne are the top dogs, with Hazard captaining the side and receiving far more freedom under Martinez. But De Bruyne has rarely reproduced his club form and remains an international enigma.
Stalwarts
Romelu Lukaku scored regularly throughout the campaign, with other useful goal tallies coming from Dries Mertens and Thomas Meunier. Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are the essential linchpins of the defence in front of keeper Thibaut Courtois. Axel Witsel offers stability in front of a back thee.
Missing
Vincent Kompany hardly figured in the campaign, while Nainggolan was omitted from the squad for the final four qualifying fixtures.
Debuts
Leander Dendoncker made his full debut in the home game against Estonia as part of a back three. Youri Tielemans started his first competitive international against Cyprus in October.

Belgium World Cup Squad

Final World Cup Squad – 

GOALKEEPERS: Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool).

DEFENDERS: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Thomas Meunier (Paris St-Germain), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur).

MIDFIELDERS: Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Youri Tielemans (Monaco), Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian).

FORWARDS: Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea), Nacer Chadli (West Brom), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United).

Probable Starting XI

Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany (if fit), Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Meunier, Mousa Dembele, Yannick Carrasco, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku,

Belgium World Cup Injuries

With Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi probably going up front for Belgium, Christian Benteke may not feature. Regardless he picked up an injury during training which may keep him out for a bit of time.

Michy Batshuayi picked up an ankle injury, and yet has still been named in the squad.

World Class: De Bruyne and Hazard are the top dogs in the team, and will have to step up if Belgium are to win it all (Getty Images)

The Unanswered Questions

What is the Plan B?
By switching to a 3-4-2-1 set-up, Roberto Martinez has shown an element of tactical flexibility that predecessor Marc Wilmots lacked. But while this covered the paucity of quality full-backs, it also revealed the lack of a back-up – which could be essential if Belgium find themselves being overrun in midfield against some of the tournament favourites.

Can Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen be relied upon in Russia?
The success of Martinez’s back three depends on the form and fitness of Kompany, or as back-up, Vermaelen. Other candidates, such as Laurent Ciman and Dedryck Boyota, are short of international quality.

Reliable: Belgium’s success will partly depend on the defensive play of company and Vermaelen. (Getty Images)

Will Radja Nainggolan return?
No is the simple answer here. Martinez has never had a smooth relationship with Nainggolan, who offers a physicality that’s lacking in Belgium’s midfield. After injury forced him out of recent friendlies against Japan and Mexico, Nainggolan had little time to convince Martinez that he is needed. As a result, Nainggolan has been omitted from the squad.

Will Kevin De Bruyne shine on the world stage?
De Bruyne has openly criticised Martinez’s tactics – which is probably a sign of his frustration at the fact that he has rarely looked happy on the international stage. He thrives on responsibility and it could be that this has been in short supply when he has worn a Belgium shirt.

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