Belgium vs Portugal Preview

Eden Hazard, Cristiano Ronaldo

European champions Portugal take on Roberto Martinez’s star-studded Belgium in a friendly in Brussels on Saturday as both teams gear up for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. 

These sides last met two years ago in a friendly in Portugal with Fernando Santos’ men beating the Red Devils 2-1, managed by Marc Wilmots at the time, with goals from Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Prior to that, the teams were pitted in the same Euro 2008 qualifying group with the Portuguese winning both ties, 2-1 away and 4-0 at home. 

But despite Portugal winning their last three meetings, it is Belgium that go into this match as favourites due to the world class players they have in every position.

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International Friendlies
Belgium vs Portugal 
Saturday 2 June 
Heysel Stadium, Brussels (Belgium) 
20:45

To Win 
Belgium 1/1
Draw 22/10
Portugal 28/10

Belgium

Belgium, ranked third in FIFA Rankings, have lost just once under Roberto Martinez. That defeat came against Spain in the former Everton manager’s first game in charge, with the Red Devils losing 2-0 courtesy of a David Silva brace. Since then, Belgium have played 16 games, winning 12 times. 

The Red Devils cruised to the top of their qualifying group for Russia with an unbeaten record, becoming the first European nation to secure their spot for the 2018 finals. Belgium finished as Group H winners with nine wins and a draw, scoring 43 goals in the process.

Martinez’s side last played in a friendly back in March where they thumped Saudi Arabia 4-0 with first-half goals from Romelu Lukaku and second-half strikes from Michy Batshuayi and Kevin De Bruyne. 

Lukaku has been in free-scoring form for Belgium, finding the net in each of his country’s last four matches, scoring six goals. The Manchester United forward will look to continue his hot streak against the European champions. Apart from Lukaku, there’s plenty of attacking talent in the side with the likes of De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Yannick Carrasco.

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 Portugal

The European champions, who are ranked fourth in the FIFA Rankings, are warming up for World Cup Group B which pits them against Spain, Morocco and Iran. After securing their place in Russia with a 2-0 victory over Switzerland, Fernando Santos’ men began their preparations for the prestigious tournament by hosting Saudi Arabia and USA in friendlies in November. The Portuguese recorded a comfortable 3-0 win over the Saudis but had to settle for a 1-1 draw against the United States. 

In March 2018, Portugal travelled to Switzerland to play friendlies against Egypt and Netherlands. Santos’ men were headed for defeat after Mohamed Salah had scored for the Pharaohs but Cristiano Ronaldo netted twice in stoppage time to snatch the victory. A couple days later, the Selecao suffered an embarrassing 3-0 defeat against the Netherlands which raised doubts of whether the European champions can deliver the biggest prize.

Many were surprised when Santos named his 23-man squad for Russia, leaving out several big names such as Nani, Eder, Ruben Neves, Renato Sanches and the Barcelona pair of Nelson Semedo and Andre Gomes. Going up against a star-studded Belgium without those players might come back to bite Santos, but the 63-year-old still has some talented players. 

Apart from Ronaldo who can win matches on his own, the likes of Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva and Sporting Lisbon’s Bruno Fernandes make Portugal a dangerous team. 

Probable line-ups:

Belgium: 3-4-3
Courtois; Kompany, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Meunier, De Bruyne, Dembele, Carrasco; Mertens, Lukaku, Hazard

Portugal: 4-4-1-1
Rui Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; Bernardo Silva, Carvalho, Moutinho, Mario; Fernandes; Ronaldo.

Prediction: Belgium Win (1/1)

The Selecao will cause Belgium problems but the Red Devils should prove too strong. The likes of De Bruyne, Hazard and Lukaku will have too much for Portugal’s suspect defence. 

Written by  Chadley Nagel

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