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It’s Time for World Cup 2018 Realism


It’s Time for World Cup 2018 Realism

England vs Belgium

Forgive me for being cynical SBOBET football fans.

I may not tip them to progress beyond the quarter-finals at World Cup 2018 but there’s no doubting the joy England have given a nation as they play with a swagger and freshness not witnessed for a while.

However, let me put the unbridled joy and soaring optimism to one side.

Rather than unrestrained optimism, it’s time for a dose of reality check, regardless of what happens in this Group G shoot-off for the top spot.

Talking Points

There’s no question this is the first major test at this tournament for both Belgium and England.

Tunisia proved to be obdurate opponents for a brief spell but were clearly a level behind Belgium, while Panama were the most accommodating and obliging of opponents ever imagined.

Yes, the 6-1 rout was one of the best World Cup 2018 results so far; yes it was an impressive show of firepower; yes it put Harry Kane to the top of the scoring charts with a first England World Cup treble since Gary Lineker in 1986; and yes it was England’s biggest ever victory at a World Cup finals.

But with full respect, Panama clearly would struggle to compete at Championship level in English football, which speaks volume on how England managed to score as many goals in last Sunday’s match as they had in their previous seven World Cup games combined.

It also speaks volumes how Kane has already equalled the tally that German duo Miroslav Klose and Thomas Muller managed in winning the Golden Boot at the 2006 and 2010 finals respectively. They would also have relished facing Panama.

So, for all of the positives surrounding Gareth Southgate’s team and without taking any achievement away from Kane, there needs to be some context.

Of course, both England and Belgium have done everything that has been asked of them and so should not be criticised, just the real challenge is yet to begin.

Believe it or not though, this meeting in Kaliningrad will probably not be it, even if it will determine who is in pole position going into the last 16.

At the moment, only fair play separates them in the standings as England are ahead of the Belgians by accumulating one fewer yellow card.

But either way, the fact both teams have qualified does take the edge of this one, even if only psychologically.

Southgate will not want his team to lose momentum and rhythm; however, after two games in taxing temperatures—albeit against limited opposition—he will want to keep key players fresh for the last 16 encounter that will quickly follow.

Then there is the question of whether finishing first or second in this group will actually bring about an advantage. As the draw stands at the moment, it is hard to see a major difference.

While the Three Lions consider their next step, Belgium boss Roberto Martinez has already hinted he will rest star names such as four-goal Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard who are both carrying knocks.

And with Jan Vertonghen, Kevin De Bruyne and Thomas Meunier all one yellow card away from a match ban, there is plenty of food for thought in their camp too.

For Premier League fans, there will be many familiar faces on show in this one on both sides. But whether this game actually helps us more accurately assess Southgate’s hopefuls or Martinez’ ‘Golden Generation’, I’m not so sure.

It should be an attacking encounter and a close one to call, but not necessarily the barometer so many feels.

History

England have a good overall record against Belgium, winning 15 of their 21 meetings with the Red Devils.

The two nations have met twice at the World Cup. A 4-4 draw in 1954 was sometime ago but the 1-0 win for the Three Lions in 1990—remember that David Platt goal in the final minute of extra-time?—was  a memory from growing up that I and millions of others will never forget.

What are the odds?

World Cup 2018 betting leans towards England with 1X2 @ 2.64, while Belgium are tipped with 1X2 @ 2.84 and Draw @ 3.05.

The Asian Handicap odds also slightly point their way with Belgium Draw No Bet priced at 2.04.

With both nations having scored eight goals in their first two games, its no surprise goals are expected with odds on Over 2.50 goals available at 2.14 and Total Goal 2-3 @ 1.90.

You can also get odds on Total Goal 4-6 which will pay out @ 4.10.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

 

 


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