UEFA Nations League: Seferovic Secures Remarkable Swiss Turnaround

Switzerland 5-2 Belgium

Well, this was a Sunday evening full of UEFA Nations League drama.

us fans had Switzerland so far out of the running after just 17 minutes in Lucerne it was game over.

All the UEFA Nations League 2018 odds also pointed to a Belgium success in the final match of Group A2.

Then Switzerland remarkably turned things around (with a little help from the visiting rearguard) to ensure an eye-catching UEFA Nations League 2018 news story which few, if any, saw coming.

Highlights of the game

In part that was because Switzerland had lost by a single goal in four of their last six matches.

In part, it was because they have, respectfully, continued to be above average but little more at this level, as shown by failing to reach quarter-finals of World Cup for 64 years.

More still, Switzerland were coming off a loss in a friendly match to Qatar (albeit with a far from a full-strength side) and had to win by two goals to secure top spot, while Belgium simply required a draw.

A MichyBatshuayi double in the defeat of Iceland had put Belgium on the brink of a place in next summer’s semi-finals and, while boss Roberto Martinez was still without the influential duo Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku(as well as Jan Vertonghen) in Lucerne, it was naturally felt the team officially ranked number one in the world would be too strong for the Swiss.

That view was enhanced inside two minutes when a poor backpass was intercepted and the less celebrated member of the Hazard family, Thorgan Hazard, brother of Eden, was alert to nip in and open the scoring.

When the same player, who plies his trade for Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga, rifled a low shot past Yann Sommer to finish off a swift Belgium counter-attack in the 17th minute, Switzerland suddenly needed four.

Even when NacerChadli caught Kevin Mbabu in the box midway through the first half and the resulting penalty was converted by Ricardo Rodriguez, it was difficult to see Switzerland adding three more.

Indeed, the last time they had managed that against a major player in international football came in August 2012 when they saw off Croatia 4-2 in a friendly.

Within another five minutes, they were level as the unmarked XherdanShaqiriwas allowed to head the ball across goal and Haris Seferovic made no mistake from close range.

A decisive moment came just before the break.

From a Belgium corner, it was the home side’s turn to counter and from Edimilson Fernandes’ pass, Seferovic expertly rifled home his second goal.

Going in ahead at the break must have given Switzerland enormous belief and they left the pitch to a standing ovation.

The momentum was all Swiss and it was all too much for Belgium.

Just past the hour mark, Shaqiri delivered into the danger zone and Nico Elvedi– whose wayward pass had contributed to Belgium’s opener – headed past a helpless Thibaut Courtois.

The unlikeliest of turnarounds became a reality six minutes from time when man-of-the-match Seferovic completed a superb hat-trick.

Shaqiri’s back-heel set Mbabu away and his cross was finished with aplomb by the home number nine.

If Eden Hazard had seen his shot go in instead of being tipped onto the crossbar by Sommer minutes later, we may have seen an even more dramatic final few minutes.

But no-one could begrudge a famous night for Switzerland and a victory which was scarcely believable an hour earlier.

The tournament may be in its infancy but this was a UEFA Nations League classic!

UEFA Nations League: Belgium have been thrashed by Switzerland 5-2

Belgium players look dejected at the centre circle after conceding their fifth goal against Switzerland

Key Statistics

The Swiss last recorded a win in this fixture over 25 years ago.

Switzerland had only won eight of their previous 28 matches against Belgium.

Belgium had been unbeaten in their last four meetings with Switzerland (won three, drawn one), including a success in the reverse fixture in the UEFA Nations League.

Vladimir Petkovic’s Switzerland have kept just one clean sheet in their last 10 matches.

Thorgan Hazard’s double means he has trebled his international goal tally in one game.

Top of Form

What’s next?

For me, Belgium have been the best international team to watch this calendar year and have possessed the best player in the world in Eden Hazard.

This was not the way they wished to end 2018.

Switzerland join hosts Portugal, England and either Holland or France in the semi-finals of this competition, the draw for which will be made in Dublin on December 3.

Seferovic now has 17 international goals.

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UEFA Nations League: Michy at the Double for Red Devils

Belgium 2-0 Iceland

Belgium took a grip on Group A2 of the UEFA Nations League with an ultimately comfortable win over a stubborn Iceland at the King Baudouin Stadium.

The Red Devils only needed four points from their final two games to guarantee a top spot in Group A2, and this surely is a giant leap towards the latter stages of this new competition. Roberto Martinez’ team is in it to win it, having come close to World Cup glory in Russia — and who’d bet against them?

Belgium is the top-ranked team in the world, so a 2-0 scoreline was no disgrace to Iceland, who defended manfully with a little help from the woodwork. And when Michy Batshuayi hit a close range double, it was no surprise, other than we had to wait until well into the second half to see the net bulge.

Highlights of the game

As expected, the Red Devils began the game on the front foot, playing at a high tempo. They almost went ahead on 17 minutes when Dries Mertens found Michy Batshuayi on the right side of the penalty area, and his shot crashed back off the right-hand post.

Premier League star Eden Hazard had an excellent World Cup for Roberto Martinez’ team, and he is also in fine form for Chelsea. The Belgium skipper had his chance to open the scoring on 23 minutes, Mertens was again the provider but Hazard’s shot from outside the penalty area, but was charged down by the well organised Iceland defence.

The Chelsea man continued to be at the centre of the action, and he had another shot blocked as well as testing Hannes Thor Halldorsson in the visitors’ goal. But the 70 per cent possession and shot count of eight to one counted for nothing as the teams went in level at the break.

Belgium are now atop their group of the UEFA Nations League and are now waiting for the next round

Eden Hazard battles for the ball against Iceland’s Ari Skulason during their Nations League clash

Iceland had a couple of efforts from long range at the start of the second half, but Ari Freyr Skulason’s and Hordur Magnusson’s shots were just over Thibaut Courtois’ crossbar. Belgium had more accuracy and Dries Mertens was so close to breaking the deadlock with a free-kick when his shot bounced back off the right-hand post.

Iceland’s resistance was finally broken on 65 minutes and Batshuayi got his reward after coming agonisingly close in the first half. Thomas Meunier put in a superb ball and Batshuayi converted from point-blank range. It was no more than the Red Devils deserved.

As Belgium probed for a second goal, Meunier himself had a shot saved when he was put in by Eden Hazard, but they didn’t have to wait too long before Batshuayi poked home his second from close range.

The hosts continued to pass around with slick accuracy while Iceland stayed in the game through great endeavour but there was never a threat to Courtois’ goal.

Key Statistics

This was a commanding performance from the Red Devils with 65 per cent possession and 22 shots to six, with six of those on target, while Iceland managed just one.

Belgium used the ball well, with 90 per cent passing accuracy compared to Iceland’s 78 per cent. But that is no surprise when you consider the pressure the visitors were under.

Iceland put up a brave rearguard with nine blocks and thirty-one defensive clearances. They will have expected an onslaught from the Red Devils and did well to repel everything thrown at them.

Belgium has won all 11 of the meetings between these two sides and the last meeting, a 0-3 win in Iceland, got their Nations League campaign underway.

And this excellent side has now failed to score in only two of their last 30 games.

What’s next?

The Red Devils are away to Switzerland on Sunday and a positive result there will take them to the knockout stage of the competition. The Swiss have beaten Iceland twice and have six points, but I really can’t see Martinez’ men slipping up. A draw is a distinct possibility against the tough Swiss but a defeat for Belgium is unlikely.

The UEFA Nations League 2018 odds have Belgium as favourite to win the tournament, alongside World Champions France and Spain. You can keep up with all the odds and the latest UEFA Nations League 2018 updates right here at us.

Meanwhile, Iceland heads off to warm up with a friendly in Qatar, and after this ordeal, they deserve the break!

 

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Hamstring injury sidelines Lukaku

Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku will miss Belgium's Nations League match against Iceland because of a hamstring problem.

The 25-year-old, who moved to Old Trafford from Everton for £75million in the summer of 2017, has struggled for Jose Mourinho's team this season and has not scored in the Premier League since mid-September.

He did net a brace for Belgium in last month's Nations League victory against Switzerland though.

Meanwhile, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has praised Eden Hazard who is enjoying a fine season with Chelsea.

Former Everton and Wigan Athletic boss Martinez said of the 27-year-old: "He's been a very good leader.

"There are many different types of leaders but I think what Eden Hazard brings is someone you can get influenced by and who is an incredible source for younger players and who has been someone who can never, ever get affected by the pressure of the game or the pressure of the situation.

"And he enjoys his football and is always decisive for his play and a role model for all of us."

Belgium, who are 1/7 to beat Iceland, face Switzerland on Sunday as they attempt to finish at the top of their Nations League group.

Belgium are 7/2 to win the Nations League outright, while Spain can be backed at 3/1 and England at 10/1.

UEFA Nations League: Another Game, Another Easy Win For Belgium?

Belgium vs Iceland

Belgium are almost through to the last four of the UEFA Nations League, and their match with struggling Iceland presents a great opportunity for them to get one step closer to making that a reality.

The Red Devils need just four points in their last two games to make it to the final round of the competition’s top-tier league. With that said, a win against Iceland will leave the Belgians needing just a draw against Switzerland to secure the top spot in Group A2.

Iceland aren’t in their best form right now though, and it might take a miracle and a lot of prayers for them to pull off a momentous upset against the top-ranked nation in the world.

Talking Points

Seriously, who can stop Belgium right now? They are the best team in the world and recently edged out France in the rankings to claim the solo lead at the top.

While they did lose to the French in the semi-finals of the World Cup, they have been undefeated since then. They even went on a four-game winning streak before playing out a 1-1 friendly draw with the Netherlands last month.

Belgium thrashed Iceland in their first game in this tournament—grabbing the UEFA Nations League 2018 highlights with a dominant 0-3 away win at the Reykjavik—and it’s likely that they will be able to replicate that success when they play at home.

Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard scored in that victory, and Coach Roberto Martinez will surely rely on his star strikers to produce for the team once again.

While there are injury concerns on the two players, they are still included in the squad and are expected to be in action—though a limited playing time or a substitute role could be an option given their recent setbacks.

Romelu Lukaku hopes to play for Belgium against Iceland in their aim to reach the UEFA Nations League final

Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring a goal for Belgium during the 2018 World Cup

Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelen are out for the team due to injuries while Marouane Fellaini has been omitted due to a lack of fitness, but Belgium are deep enough to survive the absences. The so-called “Golden Generation” has the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Dedryck Boyata, Thomas Meunier and Axel Witsel to pick up the slack.

Against the best team, Iceland will hope that everything will go in their favour. The past few months after the World Cup hasn’t been kind to them, losing three times and drawing once in their past four matches.

The small Nordic island nation captured the hearts of many with their displays in the Euro 2016—a performance that soon translated to a first-ever appearance in the world stage.

However, new Iceland manager Erik Hamren failed to continue what Heimir Hallgrimsson started and seemingly set the team on their way to disaster. The nation—nicknamed Our Boys—kicked off the Hamren era with a 0-6 defeat to Switzerland and everything went downward spiral for them after that.

The Icelanders showed some spirit when they held reigning World Cup champions France to a 2-2 friendly draw, but that was the best result they could muster under Hamren. They have already conceded 13 goals so far and scored just three under the new boss.

It remains to be seen how the team will adjust defensively against Belgium in their second meeting this year, though hopes aren’t high that they can put up a fight.

History

If Iceland fans want a further reminder of how one-sided this affair is, they need not look further than their head-to-head record. Out of their 10 meetings overall, Iceland have never won or played out a draw—NEVER.

Belgium won all matches between the two European sides, with their last three finishing with at least a two-goal lead. Besides their September meeting this year, the Belgians also won in a friendly game in 2014  with a 3-1 scoreline.

Belgium have been solid at home as well, last losing at Stade Roi Baudouin in 2016 against Spain. They are currently riding a 14-game unbeaten streak at home.

Betting Tip

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Belgium vs Iceland Belgium Correct Score 2-0 @ 5.40
November 16, 03:45 (GMT+8)

It’s easy to see why the UEFA Nations League 2018 betting odds at us favour Belgium. Besides, who will bet against the No.1 team?

With all due respect to Iceland, they can undoubtedly produce moments of magic. They also have a penchant for upsetting big teams (case in point: their 1-1 draw with Argentina). Unfortunately, I just haven’t seen enough to convince myself that they can do it in Brussels.

Not to mention there is nothing left for them to fight for (aside from their pride) as they have already been relegated to League B.

I predict Belgium to get another victory here, though injuries to key players will likely affect the team and slow them a bit.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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Sarri cautious over Hazard role

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri is weighing up how to use Eden Hazard this weekend against Crystal Palace, with the forward still struggling with a back problem.

The 27-year-old Belgium international has been sidelined since the 2-2 draw with Manchester United on Saturday 20th October, sitting out games against BATE Borisov, Burnley and Derby County.

And, while he has recovered enough to play some part against the Eagles at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, he is seemingly unlikely to start as Sarri says there is no way that Hazard would be able to last a full 90 minutes.

He told reporters: "Yesterday, he had a large part of the training with the team, but maybe he will not be ready to play for 90 minutes at the moment – because it was his first training for the past two weeks.

"Probably he will be able to play for 40-45 minutes, so for us it is important."

Hazard has scored seven goals in nine Premier League appearances for the Blues so far this season, including a second-ever hat-trick for the Blues against Cardiff City.

His first came in February 2014 when he netted all three goals in a 3-0 Premier League victory over Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge.

Meanwhile, Chelsea go into the game against Palace still unbeaten in the league and just two points behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

The last three meetings of the two teams at the Bridge have ended in 2-1 scorelines, with the visitors coming out on top in August 2015 and April 2017, while last season an own goal and a Willian strike gave the hosts the win.

Chelsea are 1/4 to take all three points on Sunday and are 13/2 to claim a 1-0 victory, with the Blues 5/6 to keep a clean sheet.

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Martinez expects Fellaini to feature

Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez expects midfielder Marouane Fellaini to be fit for Manchester United's major Premier League showdown with Chelsea.

Fellaini was absent as the Red Devils drew 1-1 in a friendly international with neighbours the Netherlands on Tuesday evening, but Martinez says he was just being cautious in omitting the combative former Everton man.

He told reporters: "He should be fine, it's just he wasn't 100 per cent.

"He's got an important game at the weekend and this wasn't the game to use players who weren't 100 per cent. We expect he should be fine in the next couple of days."

Fellaini, who moved to Old Trafford in the summer of 2013, has featured in all eight of United's Premier League games so far this season, making four starts and four appearances as a substitute.

On Saturday the Red Devils head to Stamford Bridge hoping to avoid a fourth straight defeat at the home of the Blues, with that run of losses also seeing United fail to get on the scoresheet.

The last meeting of the two sides came in the FA Cup final last season, when a first-half penalty from Eden Hazard proved enough to decide the Wembley encounter.

Chelsea can be backed at 7/10 to win the game on Saturday, with the visitors 14/1 to claim a 1-0 victory and 9/2 to keep a clean sheet.

The man from Manchester last won at the Bridge in October 2012, when Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez were among the scorers in a 3-2 success.

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Koeman cools Van Dijk concerns

Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman expects central defender Virgil van Dijk to be okay to feature for Liverpool at Huddersfield Town this weekend.

Van Dijk played and scored in a 3-0 Nations League win for the Oranje over Germany on Saturday, but will be absent when the Dutch take on Belgium on Tuesday evening, as he is dealing with a rib problem.

However, Koeman is confident that Van Dijk will be clear to return to action in the Premier League on Saturday, the former Celtic and Southampton defender having managed his injury for a number of weeks.

Koeman told De Telegraaf: "Virgil has played with two broken ribs in the last few weeks. He wanted to play against Germany and you have to give (his) club something back now.

"He's back in Liverpool, but he is ready to play for next week. He's taken a rest and spoken to his manager.

"The medical staff of the Dutch national team spoke to the medical staff of Liverpool and made the decision that he was playing only the Germany game and then after that back to Liverpool.

"He is ready to play next weekend."

Van Dijk cost the Reds a world record fee for a defender when he joined from the Saints in December 2017, with the deal worth in the region of £75million.

He has since scored once in 32 appearances in all competitions for the Merseysiders, helping Liverpool reach the final of the Champions League last season.

This season the Reds are available at 9/4 to win the Premier League title, while they are 8/1 to go all the way and triumph in the Champions League.

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Koeman keeps feet on ground

Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman has refused to get carried away by a 3-0 victory over Germany insisting his team are far from the finished article.

Germany's troubles after a poor World Cup 2018 continued in Amsterdam with Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum on the scoresheet in Holland's biggest ever win over their close rivals.

It was a morale boosting win after they missed out on qualifying for Russia this summer but Koeman was cautious after the third win in his seven games in charge of the national side.

The former Everton boss said after the game: "We were waiting a long time for this, but I'm not the kind of guy who pretends that we've become world champions.

"I'm proud because finally we got the result we needed and we can say 'yes, there is development in the team'. That's what we needed. You could also feel that in the stadium, in the atmosphere.

"But if I tell the players that everything was great, it's not good. We need to grow with each other."

The Netherlands lost to France in their opening Nations League game last month and they end the group stages of the competition next month.

However they play Belgium in a friendly on Tuesday to try and build on the Germany result against a side who reached the semi-finals in Russia.

Netherlands are 5/1 to win the game with Belgium 4/7 and the draw 11/4.

The Netherlands are 9/2 to top Group 1 in the Nations League.

Koeman's side go into Tuesday's game without Liverpool defender Van Dijk who misses out with a rib injury sustained when playing for the Reds in the Premier League last month.

His Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah is another to miss his country's second match in this international break, returning to his club after a muscle injury suffered in Egypt's win over Swaziland on Friday.

Liverpool are 9/4 to win the Premier League this season.

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Henry takes up Monaco post

Monaco have confirmed the appointment of Thierry Henry as their new head coach, with the former France international signing a three-year contract.

The 41-year-old started his playing career with Monaco before enjoying spells with Juventus, Arsenal, Barcelona and the New York Red Bulls, while on the international stage he helped Les Bleus to glory at the 1998 World Cup and the European Championships two years later.

He has been an assistant coach with Belgium for the last two years and now steps up to his first senior role, taking over at the Stade Louis II following the recent departure of Leonardo Jardim.

Henry told the club's official website: "I thank AS Monaco for giving me the opportunity to coach the team of this club which is so special to me.

"I am very happy to come back to AS Monaco and extremely determined to meet the challenges ahead. I cannot wait to meet the players and start working together."

Henry takes charge of a team languishing down in 18th place in Ligue 1, having won just one of their opening nine games in the French top-flight this season.

The lone success was a 3-1 victory on the opening weekend of the season, since when they have failed to win any of their ten games played in all competitions.

Monaco are currently priced at 33/1 to finish in the top three in Ligue 1 this season, with Lille 7/2 and Bordeaux 16/1.

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Spurs confirm Vertonghen absence

Tottenham Hotspur have confirmed that defender Jan Vertonghen is facing around another two months on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury.

The 31-year-old Belgium international has not featured for Spurs since the 2-0 Premier League victory at Huddersfield town at the end of September and is not expected to return before December.

A statement from Spurs confirmed: "Jan sustained a hamstring injury against Huddersfield Town on 29th September, which has been monitored closely over the past 12 days.

"Further investigation has shown a good initial response to rehabilitation. He will now continue his recovery with a view to returning to full training by December."

Vertonghen moved to Tottenham in the summer of 2012 from Ajax and has since racked up nearly 250 appearances in all competitions for the Londoners, while he was also a member of the Belgium squad who reached the semi-finals of World Cup 2018.

And Vertonghen has been given the backing of club and international team-mate Toby Alderweireld, who is confident that his colleague will come back stronger from his latest setback.

He told Sky Sports: "He is devastated he can't play but will try to come back as quickly as possible.

"If you're injured it's always mentally hard, but he will get through this and become stronger."

Spurs are back in action following the international break when they make the short trip to the London Stadium to take on West Ham on Saturday October 20th.

They can be backed at 4/5 to defeat the Hammers, with the draw priced at 13/5, while Tottenham are 4/6 to finish the season in the top four in the Premier League.

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