Belgium will make their UEFA Nations League bow when they meet Iceland at the Laugardalsvollur in a Group 2 clash on Tuesday night
Matchday 2 of the inaugural UEFA Nations League will conclude on Tuesday, with a staggering seven games being played across the four leagues. Two of those matches will be played in League A, with Iceland and Belgium locking horns at the Laugardalsvollur in Reykjavik in a Group 2 match.
Iceland have already played one match in the latest UEFA-hosted competition, although the start to their campaign was hardly ideal. Switzerland handed a 6-0 hammering to the Nordic outfit in what was Erik Hamren’s first match in-charge of the side, with the usual defensive resolve nowhere to be seen.
Belgium, on the other hand, are riding high on a wave of confidence and optimism following their best ever showing at a World Cup finals. Roberto Martinez’s men continued their good run last week when they cruised to a 4-0 win over Scotland and will be looking to kick things off in the UEFA Nations League with another success against Iceland.
Belgium were easy victors the last time they squared off against Iceland, as they continued their winning run against the Vikings with a 3-1 success. Ahead of their latest meeting on Tuesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the UEFA Nations League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
There were no casualties for Iceland from the game against Switzerland last week. But, Erik Hamren is expected to ring in the changes when Belgium come visiting, in an attempt to shore up his side’s defence on Tuesday.
Veteran defender Karl Arnason could be the one to return in the backline, lining up alongside Ragnar Sigurdsson with Sverrir Ingi Ingason making way. Hordur Magnusson should be recalled as well, with Ari Freyr Skulason dropping down to the bench.
Meanwhile, Hamren might change his formation to a 4-4-1-1, with Gylfi Sigurdsson playing in a more advance role, following an underwhelming outing against Switzerland. The striker who is likely to make way as a result of the change in system should be Bjorn Sigurdason, with Jon Dadi Bodvarsson playing as the sole striker.
In midfield, Sigurdsson’s place should be taken up by Runar Mar Sigurjonsson, while Arnor Ingvi Traustason could replace Birkir Bjarnason – another player who failed to deliver in Iceland’s inaugural UEFA Nations League tie. But, the spotlight will be on Hannes Thor Halldorsson, who should be a busy man between the posts against Belgium.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-4-1-1): Halldorsson; Saevarsson, Arnason, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Magnusson; Gislason, Palsson, Sigurjonsson, Traustason; Gylfi Sigurdsson; Bodvarsson
Roberto Martinez has a full strength squad at his disposal, bar the injured Kevin De Bruyne of course, as Belgium prepare to get their UEFA Nations League campaign underway on Tuesday. Against Iceland, the Spaniard should recall a number of regulars who were rested last week versus Scotland.
These include Toby Alderweireld, who should replace Dedryck Boyata to line up alongside Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen in the back-three. Axel Witsel should return to the starting lineup as well, with Mousa Dembele likely to make way for the Borussia Dortmund midfielder.
Alongside Witsel in the middle of the park, Youri Tielemans should be donning the creative hat for the Red Devils and fill the void left by the absence of Kevin De Bruyne. The third big change on Tuesday should be the return of Thomas Meunier, who was a second half substitute last week as Timoty Castagne made his international debut.
Upfront, the formidable attacking trio of Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku is likely to continue, with Michy Batshuayi being the impact substitute if need be.
Probable Starting Lineup (3-4-3): Courtois; Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen; Meunier, Tielemans, Witsel, Carrasco; Mertens, Lukaku, Hazard
- Belgium boast a perfect head-to-head record against Iceland, having been victorious in each of the nine previous meetings between the two national sides.
- Roberto Martinez has a fantastic 75 per cent win ratio as the Belgium boss, having won 21 of the 28 matches he has overseen since been appointed (D5 L2).
- Erik Hamren, on the other hand, lost his first match in charge of Iceland, who are winless in their last eight games (D2 L6).
- Home comforts – Iceland though, are hard to beat on home turf, having only lost one of the last 10 games they have hosted.
- Belgium have been strong travelers recently, winning four of their last seven away games (D3).
Player to Watch
Hannes Thor Halldorsson
The game against Switzerland was one to forget, not just for Erik Hamren, but also Hannes Thor Halldorsson. After all, which goalkeeper would want to remember a match in which he had to pick the ball from the net six times?
Against Belgium, another fierce test awaits the veteran goalkeeper. In order to avoid another embarrassing result though, Halldorsson will need to be at his best to deny Roberto Martinez’s men, in a bid to stay afloat in League A. A long night awaits.
Iceland 0-2 Belgium
Switzerland have laid the marker in Group 2 of UEFA Nations League A after hitting Iceland for a six. In Belgium, the Nordic outfit have another daunting opposition to look forward to, and all signs point towards their winless run continuing on Tuesday.
Roberto Martinez & co. were comfortable against Scotland last week, and with Iceland not exactly looking as defensively resolute as we have grown accustomed to see them be, the Red Devils will be licking their lips. But, expect the hosts to provide a more stubborn resistance on Tuesday, although Belgium will have enough to get all three points on board.