Belgium will look to maintain their dominance at the top of Group E of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers when they travel to Kazan to take on Belarus on Wednesday.
Belgium are still unbeaten in their FIFA World Cup 2022 qualification campaign, winning four and drawing one from five encounters netting 20 goals in the process, sitting at the top of the pile in Group E with 13 points. They will hope to extend their supremacy when they make a trip to Central Stadium Kazan to lock horns with a spirited Belarus.
The Red Devils are coming on the back of a routine 3-0 victory over the Czech Republic in Brussels on Sunday. Romelu Lukaku opened the scoring with an expert finish to mark his 100th Senior cap for Belgium. Eden Hazard then doubled the lead for Roberto Martinez’s men, before substitute Alexis Saelemaekers who scored his first-ever goal for his country to seal a comfortable win for the hosts.
Belarus, meanwhile, were unfortunate to suffer a 3-2 loss against Wales. After having gone behind early in the game, the White Wings rallied to take a 2-1 lead going into halftime, but a superb hat-trick from Gareth Bale condemned them to a heartbreaking defeat. It was a real disheartening moment for Georgi Kondratiev & co., who put up a spirited performance, but their efforts went down the drain as they came away with nothing.
The task will not get any easier for Belarusians as they now face the world’s No. 1 ranked Nation, Belgium, in a red-hot form. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at the two sides ahead of this Group E encounter in the qualifying stage this mid-week.
Team News & Tactics
Belarus will miss their goalkeeper Yahor Hatkevich after testing positive for COVID-19 at the start of the September matches, with goalkeeper Syarhey Chernik seeking redemption after his costly error against Wales proved fatal for his side.
Belarus caretaker manager Georgi Kondratiev will stick with a 5-4-1 shape against Belgium, putting everyone behind the ball. There is little to no reason for the home team boss to change his starting XI after a spirited display last time out. However, Gleb Shevchenko may replace Roman Begunov to fill the right wing-back slot. Nikolay Zolotov will keep his place on the other flank.
The back-three will contain Ruslan Khadarkevich, Maksim Shvetsov and Aleksandr Sachivko, who will have to keep things solid at the back and avoid opening the floodgates for Belgium attackers.
In midfield, we have a quartet of Max Ebong, Artem Bykov, Pavel Sedko and Vladislav Klimovich. While Sedko and Ebong will act as wide-attackers, their primary job is to help out their respective full-backs aside from pushing forwards to lob in a few decent crosses into the box.
Belarus are heavily dependent on Vitali Lisakovich for the source of goals. The 23-year-old Lokomotiv Moscow forward is primarily a Number 10 but is being deployed as a striker for his country due to his goal-scoring aptitude. He already has three goals and one assist in four World Cup qualifier games.
Probable Lineup (5-4-1): Chernik, Shevchenko, Shvetsov, Khadarkevich, Sachivko, Zolotov; Ebong, Klimovich, Bykov, Sedko; Lisakovich
Belgium boss Roberto Martinez would be forced into making as many as five adjustments after star striker Romelu Lukaku and defender Jan Vertonghen were both booked for the 2nd time in qualifications against the Czechs, although the Chelsea star has revealed that he is nursing from a thigh problem.
And in a late update, the trio of Thibaut Courtois, Yannick Carrasco and Axel Witsel have not travelled to Kazan for the match instead they will return to their respective clubs.
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) September 7, 2021
Martinez will go with a preferred 3-4-3 setup with attacking wing-backs Timothy Castagne and Alexis Saelemaekers bombing down the touchline to provide an outlet for wingers to cut inside. At the same time, they are equally capable of scoring goals making late entries into the box. In the absence of first-choice shot-stopper Courtois, It will be Wolfsburg goalkeeper Koen Casteels deputising between the sticks.
Dedryck Boyata should cover the defensive gap left by Vertonghen’s suspension; he will slot straight into the back-three alongside Toby Alderweireld and Jason Denayer. They will see a lot of the ball and will have to push forward to help their side unlock the passive opposition defence. Wolves star Dendoncker will replace Axel Witsel to partner Tielemans in midfield double pivot.
With star striker Lukaku missing, Christian Benteke and Michy Batshuayi are expected to be competing for the starting spot, whereas Eden Hazard may be benched as a caution, so it will be Brighton forward Leandro Trossard eyeing another start in the attacking frontline alongside an in-form Hans Vanaken.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Casteels; Boyata, Denayer, Alderweireld; Saelemaekers, Tielemans, Dendoncker, Castagne; Vanaken, Batshuayi, Trossard
- Despite their shortcomings when it matters the most in major tournaments, Belgium are now on a run of 25 matches undefeated in World Cup qualifying stages since a 2-0 setback to Estonia back in 2009, with 11 wins in their last 12 qualifiers.
- The last time these sides met in March earlier this year, Belgium thrashed Belarus 8-0, that was the first-ever meeting between these nations in history.
- Belgium have won the last three qualification games consecutively with a 3-goal margin.
Player to Watch
Hans Vanaken in World Cup qualifying for Belgium:
⚽️⚽️🅰️ vs. Belarus
⚽️🅰️ vs. Estonia
🅰️🅰️ vs. Czech Republic
Who needs Kevin De Bruyne. 😅 pic.twitter.com/The20YeWnw
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 5, 2021
In the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, Hans Vanaken has stepped up for his country to chip in with important goals and assists. One of the underrated players in the Belgian squad, the Club Brugge attacker, already has three goals and four assists in just 3 World Cup qualifying appearances for the Red Devils.
The 29-year-old has a certain knack for scoring goals from midfield and proved it domestically in the Belgian Pro League. He is an intelligent playmaker who is known to have exceptional ball-handling ability and silky technique, which is a delight to the eyes of every football fan.
Vanaken is currently at the peak of his powers, and with Lukaku, Carrasco and De Bruyne all absent, he will be the key for Martinez’s men and it is likely he will again be on the scoresheet in this match.
Belarus 1-3 Belgium
With many key players missing for Belgium, it would be safe to dismiss another 8-0 thrashing. Belarus did put up a brave performance against Wales, but that ultimately counted for nothing but the hosts can take some solace from their never-say-die attitude, even though the day ended on a low note.
Belgium will dominate the proceedings by having the lion’s share of possession. They have enough quality depth in the locker to see out this fixture against minnows Belarus quite comfortably. The Hard Tackle thereby predicts a 3-1 win for Roberto Martinez’s side in Kazan.