Having sealed their berth in the UEFA Euro 2020, Belgium will be aiming to maintain their 100 percent record in the Qualifiers when they face Kazakhstan on Sunday.
Belgium will be hoping to make it eight wins in eight matches in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers, when they travel to Nur-Sultan to face off against Kazakhstan at the Astana Arena on Sunday.
Belgium became the first team to qualify for UEFA Euro 2020, after they thrashed minnows San Marino 9-0 earlier this week. The win put Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils on 21 points from 7 games, confirming their place in the next summer’s blockbuster event. And while qualification has been achieved, Belgium will not want to take their foot off the pedal and continue on their winning ways to maintain their perfect record in the Qualifiers.
Kazakhstan, on the other hand, find themselves in the fourth place in Group I, having collected only 7 points from 7 matches so far. The Hawks have no chance of qualifying for the main tournament directly, but still harbour hopes of earning a place in the playoffs. However, they have not been on the winning side in their last three fixtures (D1 L2), with their most recent contest ending in a 1-2 defeat to Cyprus this week.
The last time these two clashed, Belgium registered a straightforward 3-0 win, with Dries Mertens, Timothy Castagne and Romelu Lukaku finding the back of the net. And ahead of their latest meeting in Kazakhstan, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Yuriy Logvinenko and Nuraly Alip had to withdraw from the squad after picking up injuries. Islambek Kuat is suspended for the contest, after picking up his third yellow card in the Qualifiers against Cyprus earlier in the week. Manager Michal Bilek is unlikely to make a lot of changes to the team that started the last game, when they welcome Belgium on Sunday.
The manager has preferred to set his team up in a 3-4-2-1 formation in the last two matches and is expected to stick with the same shape this weekend. Dmytro Nephodov should retain his spot between the sticks for Kazakhstan ahead of Stas Pokatilov, while there are unlikely to be any changes in the three-man backline, with Aleksandr Marochkin, Serhiy Malyi and Temirlan Erlanov, who scored in the last game, all expected to feature.
23-year-old Yan Vorogovskiy should line up as the right-sided wing-back, while the experienced Gafurzhan Suyumbayev should occupy the opposite flank. The duo are likely to stay deep against the Belgians, almost making it a five-man backline for Kazakhstan.
Aybol Abiken, who has just two international appearances against his name, will line up as the holding midfielder and is likely to be partnered by Georgy Zhukov, who will replace the suspended Kuat.
Captain Bauyrzkhan Islamkhan will take up one of the two attacking midfield slots for Kazakhstan and look to provide the creative impetus going forward. The 26-year-old will have Yuriy Pertsukh for support as they look to provide the supply-line for striker Sergei Khizhnichenko, who is the most capped player in the current squad.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Nephodov; Erlanov, Malyi, Marochkin; Vorogovskiy, Zhukov, Abiken, Suyumbayev; Pertsukh, Islamkhan; Khizhnichenko
Simon Mignolet, Hendrik Van Crombrugge, Maxime Lestienne withdrew from the squad, while Manchester City superstar Kevin De Bruyne is a notable absentee for the Red Devils. Leander Dendoncker is likely to miss out due to stomach problems.
No change in formation is expected from the Belgians, with Martinez sticking to the 3-4-3 setup that has that worked so very well. But, there should be changes in plenty starting from the goal itself, where Matz Sels could make his international debut for Belgium against Kazakhstan.
Dedryck Boyata and Brandon Mechele are expected to come into the three-man defence, with Toby Alderweireld likely to hold on to his spot. Timothy Castagne is expected to be retained as the right wing-back, while Yannick Carrassco should come into the lineup on the opposite flank.
Axel Witsel did not start the last game, but should get the nod in the middle of the park on Sunday. He could be partnered by teenage midfielder Yari Verschaeren, who scored his first international goal last time around.
Wholesale changes are expected in the attacking line for Belgium, with Adnan Januzaj set to feature on the right flank, while Thorgan Hazard is likely to replace his brother Eden on the opposite flank. Romelu Lukaku, who grabbed a brace in the last game, is likely to make way for Michy Batshuayi, who did not play any part in the win against San Marino.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Sels; Alderweireld, Boyata, Mechele; Castagne, Verschaeren, Witsel, Carrasco; Januzaj, Batshuayi, Thorgan Hazard
- Belgium and Kazakhstan will be facing each other for the sixth time on Sunday. The Red Devils have never lost to the Hawks so far, having won three matches, with the other two ending in draws.
- Belgium have scored the most number of goals in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers so far. Roberto Martinez’s men have found the net on 28 occasions in total in their seven qualifying fixtures.
- Kazakhstan have won just three of their eight matches in 2019 (D1 L4), with two of them coming in the Qualifiers against Scotland and San Marino. However, the Hawks are without a win in their last three matches, losing the previous two.
- Belgium have kept six clean sheets in their seven qualifying games so far. The only time they conceded was in their opening fixture against second-placed Russia.
- Kazakhstan, on the other hand, have shipped in 11 goals in their seven fixtures till date. They have kept two clean sheets, which came in the wins against Scotland and San Marino.
Player to Watch
It has been a difficult start to the 2019-20 campaign for Michy Batshuayi, who has been struggling for game time at Chelsea. The striker has played just 44 minutes of Premier League football, but has showed his value, scoring and assisting a goal in that time. He also scored a brace when he started the Carabao Cup contest against Grimsby Town.
With Romelu Lukaku likely to be rested, Belgium boss Roberto Martinez could decide to hand Batshuayi a start in the game against Kazakhstan. The 26-year-old is in desperate need of minutes and would be keen on making a strong impression on his club and national team manager when the opportunity presents itself,
Belgium 3-0 Kazakhstan
Belgium have blazed through their qualifying campaign to book a place in next summer’s European Championships. And while the manager is guaranteed to ring in the changes for Sunday’s game, there is unlikely to be any drop in intensity and purpose from the squad.
Kazakhstan have given a decent account of themselves in the Qualifiers, but Belgium are too strong a side for them and should get another comfortable win in the bag at the Astana Arena.