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Belgium and Poland are both better going forward than they are at the back, so we could be in store for an entertaining midweek encounter.
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For Belgium, it does not get much worse than being thrashed at home by the Netherlands. The two countries have a long-standing soccer rivalry which is dubbed the Low Countries derby. The Netherlands won the first official meeting between the two national teams, beating Belgium 4-1 in 1905. It was by the same scoreline that Roberto Martinez’s were demolished on Friday, as the Dutch began their Nations League campaign in style.
Ever since that inaugural match 117 years ago, the Netherlands have had the edge over their neighbors to the south. They have won 56 head-to-head games to Belgium’s 41. They have scored 284 goals to Belgium’s 221. It is true that the Red Devils beat the Oranje at the World Cup in 1994, a feat the Netherlands have not yet managed. But it is they, not Belgium, who have reached three World Cup finals. In the Low Countries, the balance of power tilts north.
Until recently, that is. Over the last decade Belgium have been the more successful side. The talent they have produced has been the envy of countries far beyond their corner of Western Europe. While the Dutch were watching the 2018 World Cup from their sofas having failed to qualify, Belgium secured a third-place finish.
The outcome on Friday suggests the Netherlands might be about to reassert control, though. Belgium were poor. Several members of their golden generation are either past their best or woefully out of form.
It might not have been their strongest starting XI, but the ease with which the Netherlands controlled a frontline of Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard must be cause for concern less than six months out from the 2022 World Cup. Martinez has plenty to think about, and he will want to see a response from his players when Poland head to Brussels.
Last summer’s European Championship did not go to plan for Poland. The target was to qualify for the round of 16, but they instead finished bottom of Group E behind Sweden, Spain and Slovakia. That was a hugely disappointing result for Poland, who also crashed out of the 2018 World Cup prematurely.
This crop of players will have another chance to impress in Qatar, though, with Robert Lewandowski set to participate in his last World Cup. After finishing second behind England in the group stage of UEFA’s World Cup qualification process, Poland beat Sweden in the play-off final to book a place at the tournament.
The manager Czeslaw Michniewicz will be looking for his side to build confidence in the next few months ahead of the big kick-off in November. A come-from-behind 2-1 win against Wales last week represented a good start to their Nations League campaign; now Poland will attempt to cause an upset against Belgium.
Clean sheets continue to elude them, though: in their last 20 matches in all competitions, Poland have only prevented Andorra, San Marino and Albania from finding the net.
While most Belgium fans were happy to admit their team was outplayed by the Netherlands last week, some pointed to De Bruyne’s recent comments and insisted the players were not taking the game particularly seriously. The Manchester City star, fresh from winning the Premier League title, expressed his opinion that players are not looking forward to the Nations League after a grueling campaign. Yet that cannot be used as an excuse for such a limp performance.
Belgium were not exactly dazzling in attack, but they did at least belatedly find the net in second-half stoppage time. That means they have now scored in 43 consecutive matches, an impressive run which stretches all the way back to the semi-final loss to France at the World Cup in Russia. With pride to salvage and an excellent track record of putting the ball past opposition goalkeepers, we could see Belgium pose serious problems to Poland’s backline.
The away team, spearheaded by the irrepressible Lewandowski, will ask plenty of questions of their own. Both teams to score is one wager we considered, but over 2.5 goals looks like better value at a generous price of +2.5. Both teams are stronger going forward than they are at the back, so we could be treated to an entertaining affair.
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|Belgium vs Poland Information|
|Teams||Belgium vs Poland|
|Location||King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium|
|Time||Wednesday, 8 June 2022, 2.45 PM EDT|
|How to watch||Fox Sports 1, fuboTV|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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