Belgium, one of the strongest teams on paper, prepare to face surprise group toppers Hungary, in their round of 16 game.
Belgium were favourites to win the tournament with the quality of individual players available in their arsenal. However, Marc Wilmot’s men haven’t had the run they would have liked. An injury-stricken back line coupled with an unsure tactical formation led them to lose their first game against a defensive Italian side. However, dropping Fellaini and a change at the right full-back position, saw the Belgian recover with a win in their last two group games.
Hungary, on the other hand, were part of Group F that comprised teams that were expected to qualify ahead of them. However, their run has been a surprise to all, with one win and two draws, has allowed them to qualify undefeated, at the top of the group. Hungary now face a tough test ahead, against a strong and motivated Belgian side.
Team Tactics and Predicted Line-ups
Although the Hungarian side has worked well as one strong team, the star of the show, for reasons other than his goalkeeping skills, will be the 40-year-old Gabor Kiraly; his sweat pants and his antiques have surely put him in the media’s eye. However, he will have to step up and show that he is also a performer if he wishes his side to beat the headstrong Belgian team.
Bernd Stock is most likely to pick a very defensive approach as defending has been the greatest weakness of the team. Employing a 4-2-3-1 formation, he will advise both his deep midfielders to provide cover to the back four against a strong and fast paced Belgian side. Youngster Adam Lang on the right back position will continue in defence alongside veterans Juhasz and Guzmics, while Khorut will occupy the right side of the defence.
Gera and Pinter will be the two deep midfield players required to provide cover to the back four and break up plays in the midfield, when the ball is in the possession of players like De Bruyne and Witsel. While captain Dzsudzsak, Elek and Lovrencsics will play as the three advanced midfield players behind striker Szalai. As one of the underdog sides in the tournament, there will be little pressure on Hungary to perform and hence one could expect the side to face Belgium with confidence as they did against Portugal.
Predicted Line-up: Kiraly; Lang, Juhasz, Guzmics, Khorut; Gera, Pinter, Lovrencsics, Elek, Dzsudzsak; Szalai.
Marc Wilmot is likely to stick to the tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation that has worked well for his team in the last two games.
Courtois will be the first choice goalkeeper with Meunier, Alderweireld, Vermaelen and Vertonghen making up the back four. With Lombarets and Kompany out of the tournament, the manager had to experiment with the right back position and has now picked Thomas Meunier, who has been by far one of Belgium’s standout performers.
In midfield, Moussa Dembele is doubtful to start, after his injury in Belgium’s second group game. For the two deep midfield roles, Wilmot is likely to field Axel Witsel and Radja Nainggolan. Both possess immense stamina and are defensively sound, thus providing considerable cover for the central defenders when the wing backs push forward. Fellaini will find it hard to make it into the starting eleven with the others putting in a solid performance in the previous two games.
The attacking trio that will appear behind lone striker Romelu Lukaku will be Eden Hazard on the left, Yannick Carrasco on the right and Kevin De Bruyne in the centre. The four players have looked sharp, each possessing a quality that offers Belgium a new dimension when going forward.
Belgium riding high on confidence will take the game by the scruff of its neck and make all-out attacks from the first minute. Trying to maintain most of the possession, Carrasco, Hazard and Lukaku will look to cause trouble to the Hungarian defence, while De Bruyne will pull all the strings from the vicinity of the 18-yard box.
Predicted Line-up: Courtois, Meunier, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Witsel, Nainggolan, Hazard, De Bruyne, Carrasco; Lukaku.
Playing in the number ten role behind Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne has had an excellent tournament so far. De Bruyne will be a major threat to the Hungarian defence, with the license to roam around the 18-yard area, exploiting the pockets of spaces on the left and the right. The Man City playmaker already has one assist against his name and would be willing to add his name to the scoresheet.
The Bursaspor attacker has been the star of Hungary’s campaign in the Euro’s. With two much-needed goals against Portugal, the captain has helped the team finish top of the table and earned a place in the round of 16 against Belgium. Operating on the right-hand side of the pitch, Dzsudzsak will be up against Jan Vertonghen, who will play out of his usual position, at left back. Hungary will be heavily reliant on Dzsudzsak’s leadership and performance to advance to the next round.
- Hungary are joint top scorers along with Wales in the group stages with 6 goals
- This is Belgium’s first time beyond group stages since 1980
- Thomas Vermaelen’s only goal for Belgium was against Hungary
- Belgium have had a clean sheet in their last two games
Hungary 3- 2 Belgium
Although Belgium look strong, their only convincing victory has come against Republic of Ireland. The star-studded side has struggled against bigger teams like Italy and barely scraped through a hard working yet poor Swedish side. Hungary, on the other hand, have been exceptional throughout the tournament, working hard to defy all odds. The lack of pressure on their side might just allow them to cause one of Euro 2016’s big upsets in a high scoring game of football.