THE pressure is on Belgium as they face Ireland on Saturday. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) takes a look at the odds for us.
Belgium v Republic Of Ireland | Saturday 14:00 | ITV1
Belgium look a big price here. 10/11 for a side ranked second in the world against, for me, the worst Irish side in 30 years. It almost feels too good to be true. But…
Belgium are a hard side to trust at the moment. They qualified comfortably but took just a solitary point against a Welsh side up to the tits in spirit and togetherness. Marc Wilmot’s side only won the group due to the fact the Welsh took just one win from their last three matches.
Since their re-emergence as a footballing powerhouse they’ve never really looked the real deal. They reached the Quarter-Finals of the 2014 World Cup but you couldn’t help feeling a little flat over their achievements. They scored just four goals that summer and needed extra time to see off USA in the Last 16.
On Monday night their Eur0 2016 campaign kicked off under a cloud as they lost 2-0 to Italy. The backdrop to that defeat was a string of below-par performances and gestures and snipes towards coach Wilmots.
Ireland on the other hand have nothing like the talent that the Belgians do but they seem to have togetherness and for what it’s worth their fans have been fantastic during the tournament.
This ordinary Irish side managed to take four points out of six against the world champions Germany in qualifying and in their heart will surely fancy their chances here.
Their main task here on Saturday will be to fight for everything and try to unsettle this soft Belgian outfit. Their main issue will be containing them and showing enough attacking zeal themselves.
Remove Gibraltar from the equation and the Irish scored just eight goals in eight qualifying matches for this competition. On only one of those occasions did they score more than one goal so it’s fair to say it’s going to be tough for Ireland to make an attacking impact.
If Belgium click on Saturday then the 10/11 will look massive on Sunday morning, however have this decade’s Belgian side ever clicked on this kind of stage? I’m not so sure.
Ireland had much better sides back in the day but their 1994 win over Italy and 2002 draws with Germany and Spain shouldn’t be totally discounted. This breed of folk can rise to the occasion as we seen in qualifying.
I’m going to back the draw here at 13/5 and have a plunge on a shock 1-0 win for Ireland at bulbous odds of 12/1 with Netbet. Let’s see what this Belgian side are made of.