Belgium vs Portugal
There’s a treat in Brussels on Friday night when Portugal arrives to take on Belgium, in a match sure to entertain, and one which may give us some big clues.
This is a clash of two European heavyweights, one of the favourites to lift World Cup 2018, and the other the current European champions. It’s a chance for football betting players to see just how close Belgium’s stars are to regularly beating the World’s best teams, though Real Madrid’s chief Galactico, Cristiano Ronaldo, may well be unavailable, rested to prepare for the big tournament.
With FIFA’s world rankings, pitching Belgium at third and Portugal fourth, both ahead of the highly fancied France and Spain, we could well be watching a semi-final preview if both teams play to form in Russia.
Of course England fans will be watching this one carefully as the World Cup draw has landed the Three Lions in the same group as highly fancied Belgium, along with Panama and Tunisia.
Belgium boss Roberto Martinez has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, and he is under pressure to turn the nearly men into winners. Romelu Lukaku could be an irresistible force if he can recapture his early season form for Manchester United, his direct and powerful style can put the wind up any defence. Meanwhile, Lukaku’s kid brother Jordan has impressed at Lazio and has also made the World Cup squad.
And Lukaku’s near neighbours in the Premier League, Manchester City, is the home of classy defender Vincent Kompany and his team mate Kevin de Bruyne. The brilliant midfielder was the architect of much of City’s success in winning the Premier League with a record 100 points. Had Liverpool’s Mo Salah not had such an incredible second half of the season then De Bruyne would surely have been the UK Player of the Year.
The Sky Blues maestro will provide a ready supply of ammunition for Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Napoli’s Dries Mertens, and if Lukaku hits form that could be a terrifying prospect for opponents in Russia.
Besiktas’ Pepe and Ricardo Pereira of FC Porto could well be tasked with keeping that attacking threat at bay on Friday, to allow Portugal’s midfield and attack to play with some freedom. Pepe’s club team-mate Ricardo Quaresma could lead the attack if Ronaldo is resting, and Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva’s reputation has rocketed after a successful first campaign in the EPL and he could well be a big name at the World Cup.
The Portuguese face Spain, Morocco and Iran in a tough group in Russia. And that clash against their near neighbours could be the game of the first stage. But the European Champions didn’t have an easy passage from the qualifiers, beating Switzerland to top spot on goal difference to avoid a potentially disastrous play-off, and the same sad fate as Italy. But Coach Fernando Santos won’t worry about that now, as he prepares for an assault on World Cup.
So they may well be without Ronaldo for this one, who was given time off to recover after Los Blanco’s Champions League final win over Liverpool. Without him Portugal played out a 2-2 draw with Tunisia on Monday, Joao Mario and Andre Silva scoring, but their defensive mettle was severely tested by the Africans, who will meet England in the group stages in Russia, so take note Gareth Southgate.
Belgium and Portugal have pretty much shared the spoils in their 17 meetings so far, Portugal winning six to Belgium’s five, with six draws. But recent history favours the visitors, winning at the last three meetings since 2007. In the latest clash Ronaldo and his former Manchester United colleague, Nani, scored in a 2-1 win in 2016.
But it’s a nagging factor for Roberto Martinez’ team that, with an inferior squad to his own, Portugal became European Champions two years ago. The Reds carry on impressing with their array of talent and attractive brand of football, but are they ready to make their own history?
What are the Odds?
Belgium is favourite to win at 1X2 @ 2.01 with Portugal a distant 3.50.
The Asian Handicap offering is similar with the hosts -0.50 @ 2.02 and the European champions + 0.25 @ 2.25.
In beating the Belgians three times over the last decade, Portugal has scored freely and all three victories featured over 2.5 goals.
This time the odds for over 2.25 goals is 2.04.
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