Focus Fixture: Can England get Euro 2024 preparations back on track against Belgium

26 March 2024

With Euro 2024 fast approaching, England’s loss to Brazil on Saturday was not timely. The match was meant to provide us with some answers but questions were what many fans left the game with. It was also England’s first loss in all competitions since the quarter-final loss to France in Qatar.

The hosts lacked the creative spark that fans expected from a team containing an array of attacking talent. The performance was also dogged by individual mistakes with Harry Maguire, Ben Chillwell and Connor Gallagher particularly culpable. Ollie Watkins was given the opportunity to start a game for only the second time in an England shirt and despite working hard he was let down by poor service. 

Despite having an outstanding season in a Manchester City shirt, Phil Foden was once again unable to replicate his club form. The one standout performance unsurprisingly came from Jude Bellingham, the Real Madrid midfielder looked a class above his teammates and his substitution coincided with a reduction in the host’s attacking threat.

With three matches to go until England get their Euro 2024 campaign underway, each one of them is vital.

Belgium visit Wembley this evening, and are also tuning up ahead of the Euros. A 0-0 draw with the Republic of Ireland on Saturday will do little to inspire their fans before the tournament. You can currently back them at 19.5 on the Euro 2024 outright market which seems big considering they are unbeaten since the World Cup.

Despite their golden generation beginning to fade they still have enough talent to hurt any major side. They find themselves in Group E for the summer and will face Romania, Slovakia and the winner of this evening’s play-off between Ukraine and Iceland. 

In the Southgate era, these two teams have met four times with Belgium dominating the head-to-head battle 3-1. Thanks to this, and England’s poor record against top nation’s in Southgate’s time, a win would give everyone around the team a real boost going into the tournament. 

The Runners and Riders

Rotation will be the order of the day for England, with Southgate keen to assess all his options before naming his squad for the summer. Brentford’s Ivan Toney will lead the line for the Three Lions and replace Watkins. There has been a lot of hype around Manchester United teenager Kobbie Mainoo, who could well feature alongside Declan Rice in the middle of the park.

Jarred Branthwaite will also be hopeful of making his first appearance for the senior side as well at the heart of the England defence. It will be interesting to see if Southgate looks to Tottenham’s James Maddison to provide the creative spark that was missing on Saturday.

Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire and Sam Johnstone all pulled out of the squad after Saturday night and they were replaced by Rico Lewis and James Trafford. 

Belgium are without the headline acts of Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois but still have plenty of names familiar to Premier League fans. Jeremy Doku, Youri Tielemans, Leandro Trossard, Romelu Lukaku, Amadou Onana and Thomas Kaminski are all likely to feature tonight.

What They Said

Declan Rice, who will lead out England for the first time, said: “Fifty caps, it is a pinch me moment, it will be an honour. On my 50th cap, to walk out at Wembley in front of my family and friends, it is a great honour, I’m a bit speechless.”

"A boring game, not a good one," Belgium manager Domenico Tedesco said after the 0-0 draw with the Republic of Ireland.  "From both sides it was a slow rhythm, slow passes, no sharpness, at the end we did not more than in the summer friendly games, where one team has possession and then drops, it was really difficult to find the right shape, we took many minutes at the beginning the game to achieve our structure and shape.

Bet Builder Tip

After frustrating performances by both sides on Saturday night they will be keen to score some goals and get a win. I think England will look to impose themselves on the contest more than they did against Brazil and truly dominate possession and play front-foot football. I expect we will see Mainoo and Maddison who in combination with Bellingham who should be capable of delivering it. 

I think the more open-style of football will lead to chances at both ends. Given the attacking talent Belgium have got at their disposal and the fact that apart from the Republic of Ireland game, they had scored at least once in each match this season, I think both teams to score is a good bet.

Ivan Toney is a man for the big occasion, he scored on his return to Premier League action for Brentford earlier this year and he will be desperate to get his first goal in an England shirt tonight. I am going to back him to get a shot on target as well.

The card markets are interesting for international friendlies, where we tend to see a lot less than Premier League matches. I think Onana is a good bet and at 4.2 the price is very appealing, having only featured from the bench on Saturday he has a good chance of starting. He will have the tricky task of trying to keep a handle on England’s midfield and it is easy to see him slipping up.

Recommended Bets

Back BTTS, Ivan Toney over 0.5 shots on target and Onana to be carded @ 15/2

Latest England vs Belgium Odds

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