Belgium (-130) vs Republic of Ireland (+359), Draw (+245)
Belgium (0-0-1, 0 pts) were arguably the most disappointing team in the first fixture of Euro 2016. After falling to Italy (2-0), the talented squad is now one loss away from an early elimination. They’ll have the chance to put things right on Saturday when they take on the Republic of Ireland (0-1-0, 1 pts) at the Nouveau Stade Bordeaux (9:00 AM Eastern).
The expectations about this Belgium team were sky high before their debut game. They came into the tournament second in the FIFA rankings and with a roster as talented as any in the field. But perceptions changed drastically after the 2-0 loss against Italy.
Belgium had a nice 2014 World Cup getting to the quarterfinals, but they didn’t show the killer instinct to move further. It was the same story against Italy; the team’s attack lacked inspiration, and led to a disappointing blanking at the hands of the Azzurri.
The defense also struggled. It was clear that Italy wanted to play on the counterattack from the opening whistle, yet Belgium’s defenders were frequently unprepared for the counter.
Ireland will likely do the same. Fortunately for Belgium, the Irish defense isn’t as talented or as disciplined as Italy’s.
Ireland drew against Sweden in their first fixture (1-1). Ireland looked like the stronger side for most of the match and probably deserved to win, but they gave up a second-half equalizer on an own goal. If they remain as aggressive as they were in their meeting against Sweden, Belgium could be in for a surprise.
These two nations have met six times since 1982, with two wins by Belgium and four draws. But don’t put too much stock in that; they haven’t played since 1997. Belgium have the stronger roster by far, but Ireland are playing better as a team. Take the draw in what should amount to a pretty even game.
Pick: Draw (+245).
(Photo Credit: Erik Drost (Flickr: Belgium National Team) CC BY 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)