Belgium v Republic of Ireland
Belgium will take on the Republic of Ireland at the Nouveau Stade de Bourdeaux on Saturday afternoon in the sides’ second Group E match. Belgium have never lost to the Boys in Green in 50 years, and are unbeaten in 7 competitive matches.
The Red Devils, the highest-ranked European team, suffered a 2-0 defeat to Italy in their opening match, with many of their key players underperforming. Head coach Marc Wilmots has been heavily criticised for failing to get his squad full of talent to gel properly, as was the case at the 2014 World Cup.
Belgium did have their chances to score but lacked the sharpness in attack that the Italians possessed. With potentially three teams from the group going through to the Round of 16, a win for Belgium them right back in the mix, but they’ll need to improve quickly.
Having started from the bench in the first game, Yannick Carrasco and Dries Mertens could be in line for their first starts in the competition.
Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland side impressed in their first game, drawing 1-1 with Sweden. They took the lead through Man of the Match Wes Hoolahan after some brilliant work by Seamus Coleman. Three points looked nailed on until Ciaran Clark’s own goal levelled things up.
Speaking after the match, a proud Hoolahan said: “It was a good performance and we look forward to Belgium on Saturday.”
His thoughts were echoed by O’Neill. “We have two very, very tough matches coming against two sides that are very classy but if I can take anything from the performance today, it was that the players looked accomplished. We have the desire but the players are also growing into international football,” he said.
After coming off the bench in the previous match, Robbie Keane looks set to start from the off against Belgium.
Belgium’s Jan Vertonghen and Ireland’s James McCarthy and Glenn Whelan are all one booking away from a suspension after picking up a booking in their first match.
Belgium predicted line-up
Republic of Ireland predicted line-up
101 Great Goals prediction: Belgium 3 – Republic of Ireland 1