There is no room for calculations anymore for Belgium after suffering a shock defeat to Morocco on Sunday. The Red Devils now have to beat Croatia in the 3rd round to reach the knockout stage. Considering all things we’ve seen so far, that is going to be an extremely difficult task. Runners-up from the World Cup 2018 demonstrated great form in a recent duel against Canada (4-1), still being undefeated in the tournament.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez couldn’t find the right words to describe the main issues team faces right now, refusing to blame any player individually, but expecting the “best performance” to arrive in the final round. The fact is that Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard are almost invisible on the pitch, while main forwards Mertens, Lukaku, and Batshuayi are looking out of shape. A lot of experts labelled Belgium as the biggest dark horse for the tournament, while others are claiming that this “Golden Generation” hit its peak four years ago in Russia.
The Red Devils are now 70/1 to win the World Cup
At the moment of publishing this article, the odds offered on both Croatia and Belgium to win on Thursday afternoon are identical 17/10. Everyone expects to see a narrow encounter full of action. The Blazers would be perfectly fine with a draw though, which is a massive difference-maker in the starting mentality. Before the tournament started, Belgium was at 25/1 to win the World Cup. After two disappointing performances, they are down to 70/1 right now. Bet on Belgium to suffer an early elimination in the group stages on 11/20 clearly depicts the team’s low chances to stay in Qatar for a couple of more weeks.
The Red Devils had zero issues reaching the second phase in their previous two World Cup appearances – in 2014 they won all three games versus Algeria, Russia, and South Korea while repeating the same success in 2018 against Tunisia, Panama, and England. The total number of goals the team scored in those encounters is 11!
Are we going to see some new faces in the starting lineup against Croatia?
We wouldn’t be surprised to see Romalu Lukaku and Leandro Trossard starting the 3rd round match on Thursday afternoon. Inter Milan’s forward has struggled with an injury for a couple of weeks now, but the latest reports say he is ready for at least sixty minutes of play. Michy Batshuayi scored the winning goal against Canada, but his ratings in both games so far have been poor. The same goes for Thorgan and Eden Hazard, who might be replaced by the abovementioned Brighton’s winger. The only remaining change we are expecting to see is Yuri Tielemans to start instead of Amadou Onana.
The last head-to-head match against Croatia was in June 2021 (friendly match) and the Red Devils won 1-0 thanks to Lukaku’s first-half goal. Belgium has also won the last competitive duel against this opponent in EURO qualifiers in 2013. Once again, Romelu was the MVP (found the net twice). The Big Rom is now at 2/1 to score for the third time in a row versus Croatia.