Belgium national football team is the next on our list, as the Red Devils are the first seeders in the Group G. They will start the 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign on June 18th, 2018, as massive -550 favorites against Panama at Fisht Stadium in Sochi, while five days later Belgium meets Tunisia at Spartak Stadium in Moscow, once again as huge -334 favorites to win the game. Their last match of the group phase is set for June 28th, 2018, at Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad when Belgium faces England in a derby clash of the Group G.
The Red Devils have participated in 12 FIFA World Cup tournaments so far, and their biggest achievement was the fourth place in Mexico 1986 when they were beaten 2-0 by Argentina in the Semi-Final, while four years ago Belgium finished the journey in the Quarter-Finals losing to Argentina once again 1-0. They are coming to 2018 World Cup in Russia as big favorites to at least replicate the result from Brazil 2014, and considering the blistering talent among their squad, the Red Devils are certainly capable of much more.
Winner: +1100 at Bet365 Sportsbook
To Reach Semi-Finals: +225
To Reach Quarter-Finals: -163
Group Qualifying Yes/No: -1200/+650
Group Phase Matches:
There are a lot of world-class players among the Belgium squad, but the biggest star is certainly the 27-year old forward Eden Hazard (81 caps, 21 goals) who plays with Chelsea in the English Premier League. Hazard’s vision and his movement on and off the ball are crucial for this Belgium team, while his presence on the field always draws the attention of rival’s defenders, which leaves a plenty of room for his teammates. Along with Hazard, the 26-year old playmaker Kevin De Bruyne (56 caps, 13 goals) from Manchester City will orchestrate the play from the midfield, and these two guys are key members of the Red Devils.
Between the sticks, we’ll probably see Thibaut Courtois (55 caps) from Chelsea, but he’s having a terrible season so far, making some unusual mistakes, particularly in big games for his team. At the back, the centre-back duo from Tottenham, Toby Alderweireld (71 caps, 3 goals) and Jan Vertonghen (97 caps, 8 goals) will be Belgium’s defensive rock along with the experienced Vincent Kompany (73 caps, 4 goals), while the full-back Thomas Meunier (22 caps, 5 goals) should get his place in the starting eleven due to his excellent overlapping skills.
The midfielders Axel Witsel (85 caps, 9 goals), Marouane Fellaini (78 caps, 16 goals), Radja Nainggolan (29 caps, 6 goals), and Mousa Dembele (73 caps, 5 goals) are all great players, and we’ll see who’ll enter the best eleven. At the front, the 24-year old powerhouse striker Romelu Lukaku (63 caps, 30 goals) from Manchester United will surely lead the Red Devils, while Dries Mertens (64 caps, 13 goals) from Napoli and Michy Batshuayi (13 caps, 5 goals) will both wait for their chance.
The head coach is the 44-year old Spaniard Roberto Martinez who’s a well-known tactician, and he mostly prefers a 3-4-3 formation with a short-passing style of play, but Martinez is also a great motivator who knows how to prepare his team for different kinds of opponents.
The road to 2018 World Cup: Belgium qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after finishing at the top of the European qualifying Group H table with 28 points, a 9-1-0 record, and a goal difference of 43:6, well ahead of Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Cyprus, and Gibraltar, while eight out of their ten games had at least three goals in the total. The Red Devils were perfect on the road, recording five victories with a 17:4 goal difference and their only stalemate came at home against Greece (1-1).
Gains: Belgium is a well-balanced team with a few exceptional individuals in each line. Without a ball, they prefer a high pressure on opponents’ defenders, always trying to get a possession back, while with the ball on their feet Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne both can cause a lot of damage. Likewise, the Red Devils are a physically very strong team that often makes advantages in aerial duels.
Shortcomings: It’s hard to find a weakness in this Belgium team, but it seems like a left full-back position is an issue where they lack a top-class player. Also, mental preparation was a big problem in the past, and that is why Roberto Martinez’s role is so important.
Players to Watch: Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruine, Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen
Top Goalscorer: Romelu Lukaku +1800, Eden Hazard +4000, Michy Batshuayi +10000
MY PICK: Belgium vs. Panama AH -2 (+105) – the Red Devils will certainly look to kick-start their campaign, while Panama is far away from their league, so I expect to see a demolition job in this one. Also, I believe this is one of the hottest picks of the 2018 World Cup first round.
ADDITIONAL PICK: Belgium vs. Tunisia AH -1.5 (-115) – Tunisia is certainly a better team than Panama, but Belgium will try to cement their second-round spot after the first two games of the group phase, and I believe they will get another convincing victory over Tunisia.
Against the Odds: Belgium to Win the FIFA World Cup (+1100) – according to all relevant sportsbooks, only five teams are bigger favorites to win the cup than the Red Devils, but if they make it somehow to the top, it will be against the odds, for sure, especially because they’ll probably meet Brazil or Germany in the Quarter-Finals.