Looking at the Road to Euro 2020, Belgium was not really the ideal group opponent for Russia was eager to pick up from the pot draw of the final tournament. Yet, Stanislav Cherchesov’s side was pitted against Les Diables Rouges following a double debacle away (3-1) and home (1-4) in Group I of the Qualifiers.
Belgium vs. Russia
Saturday, June 12, 2021 – 03:00 PM EDT at Gazprom Arena
Despite the home advantage which is clearly on Russia’s side, the last time against Belgium was in the Euro 2020 Qualifiers and it ended with broken bones in the very same venue: 1-4 with both the Hazard Bros scoring and Romelu Lukaku (who else) hitting one. However, during that campaign, Russia showed great consistency and won all the games except the two challenges against Roberto Martinez´ XI.
Euro 2020 Qualifiers was one of the best Russian campaigns in recent years: it confirmed Cherchesov’s good spell and prolonged the climax of the home World Cup culminated with the Spanish scalp. However, with only 3 games in few days, and no chance to reap points with minnows, losing to Belgium will already put Russia in a hurry to deliver in the next games. Can they really hope to overturn what looks like a written script?
They will need the spirit of that July night in Luzhniki, Moscow, in July 2018.
Don’t get fooled. Cherchesov does not belong to the novel of modern coaches. The former USSR and Spartak Moscow goalkeeper has just one thing in mind: conceding as little as possible. Therefore, his apparent 4-2-3-1 is a compact 4-5-1, or even 5-4-1 in the heat of the game with opponents storming. After all, you need to face the likes of Mertens, De Bruyne, and Lukaku just for a start.
Martinez is indeed entrusting this trio for bringing nuisance to the opposition’s goal defended by Anton Shunin. It will be even harder for a defense guided by the 37-year-old Zhirkov, a local Zenit hero. Upfront, another Zenit veteran, Dzyuba, will try to make his height and weight matter around Thibaut Courtois, possibly assisted by Atalanta’s Miranchuk. If Cherchesov will allow.
Looking at the venue and the number of Zenit’s players involved, it is understandable that Russia will not give up easily. However, Belgium are not the team afraid to play home or away: in the Qualifiers, it made no difference, they won all 10 of them! Russia, on the contrary, struggled to bag one against Bulgaria in the last pre-tournament friendly: an 84th-minute goal from a penalty kick is definitely not building your confidence ahead of such an important debut. Belgium beat 1-0 Croatia ahead of Saturday, but those are The Vice-World Champs.
If Belgium will batter Russia, it is not a secret that the goal might come quite early and put Belgium on the lead immediately at the half-time whistle. If the full-time win for Belgium it is out of doubt then, why not staking on Belgium to win both halves then? Remember, it’s 1 HT – 1 FT combo, Belgium play ‘home’! Otherwise, if you want to stay away from the risk of a game entering into a lull till half-time whistle, just stake on 1 with Handicap (Belgium to win at FT with handicap).