2018 FIFA World Cup: Group G
The Teams: Belgium, England, Panama, Tunisia
The make-up of Group G tells many stories. On one side; two huge footballing nations are expected to run rampant in the group (well, expected if you’re an optimistic England supporter with Three Lions on your shirt and a St George’s cross painted on your face). The other half; two gallant underdogs bringing passionate and eclectic fans to Russia who seem just happy to be there. Whilst there are two nations who, in many people’s eyes, look set to qualify to the knockout stages, this is the World Cup and nothing is ever that simple.
Odds to win the competition – 10/1 (Sky Bet)
Method of qualification – UEFA Group H Winners
The Belgian national side certainly are abundant in quality and seem to have emerged to the forefront of international football over the last decade – continuing to become such a formidable force in major international competitions. This was exhibited throughout Belgium’s qualifying campaign where Roberto Martinez’ ensemble of footballing superstars scored a record breaking 43 goals in World Cup qualifying and were the first team, by some margin, to secure their place at the tournament in Russia.
An amplitude of Belgium’s goals seemed to come from expert delivery or rather extraordinary strikes from outside the area. The astonishing playmaking qualities of Kevin De Bruyne continued to penetrate defensive weaknesses whilst his crosses seemed to continue to meet the head of Romelu Lukaku – who’s pace, strength and power earned him 11 goals in qualifying. If the ball isn’t entering the box it is being struck from outside of it, with 31-year-old Dries Mertens playing exceptionally for his country and regularly finding the top corner of the goal seemingly with ease. If the ambitious shot doesn’t fly in it is almost certainly turned in by Belgium’s suffocating attack who position themselves perfectly to get on the end of keepers’ parries. Whilst it must be said that Belgium’s goals came in quite a lacklustre qualifying group, Roberto Martinez’ 3-4-3 formation decimated defences and acquired Belgium with a simple route to Russia.
Ahead of the world cup, Roberto Martinez spoke exclusively to 90MAAT to discuss the upcoming tournament and gave quite an insight on the Belgian team:
“Even if you qualify well you earn the right to play three games – that’s the only thing that you get. Now it’s a case of what we’re going to do with those three games. It’s important that we grow into those games and how we can become a team – we all know that Belgium has fantastic individuals… but at modern day international level players very much play for the individuals and not for the team. I think now is our opportunity to work hard for each other and understand what it takes to become a winning team, but I’m very much looking forward to those three games.