Belgium Had Better Find Some Lock-Pickers
As they’ve sat back and watched the other half of the draw fill up with all of the traditional favourites, Belgium must have allowed a country-wide wry smile to pass across their lips on more than one occasion.
But the downside to being the big fish on that side of the pond will be that they’ll come up against sides who’ll be sitting back against them, thereby limiting the space that the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard love to run into.
Belgium are going to need a little more haste and a little less speed in the knockout rounds, something that their supremely quick and athletic side haven’t quite mastered yet.
Anticipation Can Often Be Romelu Lukaku’s Problem
Rightly lauded after his two goals in the win over the Republic of Ireland last time out, Romelu Lukaku would have felt that he’d showed the world – or at least the continent – just why he should be being talked about when the very best forwards around are mentioned.
Supposedly in the shop window this summer, he’d have bounced into this game with great confidence, but Sweden were never going to give the Everton forward the space that the Irish did in their wretched second half, and we began to see what is perhaps the Belgian’s biggest problem.
Time and again in the first half, the ball was sent into the Swedish penalty area only for Lukaku to fail to get on the end of it. They were usually good deliveries, meaning that the reason the forward didn’t get there down to his lack of anticipation. He was often nowhere near the ball.
If he could just be a little sharper around the box, then this most complex of puzzles could finally be complete.
Sweden Face An Uncertain Future Without Zlatan Ibrahimovic
He could always do a U-turn and decide to prolong his international career, or he could take his mask off and reveal that he was actually 20 social media interns all along, but for now we have to presume that that is the last that we’ll see of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a Sweden shirt.
The eulogies will be lengthy and fully deserved for a fine, always imposing talent, but as Sweden exited the tournament without really making an impact upon it, you were left to wonder just what will become of them now their talisman has been put out to pasture.
This isn’t a great generation of Swedish players, and merely qualifying for major tournaments could soon become a huge problem for them.
The next Zlatan seems a long way away.
Midfield One Of Many Problems For Marc Wilmots
Mousa Dembele had limped off in the Ireland game and so Marc Wilmots’ hand was forced a little when picking eventual match-winner Radja Nainggolan, but – as we’re seeing with Roy Hodgson’s England – there is every reason to believe that the Belgian boss doesn’t know his best team.
The midfield, in particular, looks a little slow and uncreative, and it would be no surprise to see the coach change things up again when Belgium come up against Hungary in the last-16, where the lively Dries Mertens could do some damage on the wings given the weaknesses they displayed against Portugal in Lyon.
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