PARISH, June 18: Belgium head into their second match of Euro 2016 needing to beat Republic of Ireland to make next round, as they lost their opening game against Group E rivals Italy. Martin O’Neill’s side wants to upset star loaded Belgium who are certainly favorite and looking to bounce back from their Italian set back.
Ireland shared the spoils with Sweden in a 1-1 draw earlier that day with an impressive and spirited display which arguably deserved more having seen Wes Hoolahan's quality finish cancelled out by an unfortunate Ciaran Clark own goal.
Premier League stars Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne who missed training sessions earlier this week due to minor injuries are expected to available for selection. Head coach Marc Wilmots likely to opt same 4-2-3-1 playing system which he used in last match, with Zenit’s passing man Witsel and 28-year-old dynamic box to box midfielder Naingolan in deep midfield. Despite Marc Wilmot’s’ hint of trying new option at front, Lukaku still favorite to start the game as lone forward.
Likely playing XI:
Courtois; Ciman, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Witsel, Naingolan; Hazard, De Bruyne, Mertens; Lukaku
Republic of Ireland
Belgium are unbeaten in their last six games against Ireland and have not lost to them since a 3-2 defeat back in 1996, Martin O’Neill and Co aiming to change this record registering a victory over at Matmut Atlantique in Bordeaux. The only doubt for Republic of Ireland is Jonathan Walters following an Achilles problem he sustained against Sweden. Former Aston Villa boss set to use 4-5-1 playing system with Shane Long leading the attack, Everton midfielder McCarthy in central midfield alongside Whelan and McClean.
Marc Wilmots, Belgium
I'm expecting a tight match. The onus will be on us to take the game to them as we need the win. But we must be patient; we cannot afford to gift them too much space. They are a very dangerous team on the counterattack, so we need to be very mindful of that.
Martin O'Neill, Ireland
Belgium are individually as talented as any side playing in the competition, so naturally it'll be a difficult match for us. But it's one we should look forward to. We played strongly against Sweden, we probably should have won that game but didn't. We've got an opportunity now to go and show the same sort of attitude, same determination and ability, and hopefully give Belgium a tough game.
Head to head
-Belgium are unbeaten in their last six matches against the Republic of Ireland (W2, D4) dating back to a 3-2 friendly loss in 1966.
-They haven't faced each other since November 1997, when Belgium beat the Republic 2-1 in a home World Cup qualifier.
-Belgian coach Marc Wilmots featured in the 1-1 draw at Lansdowne Road in the same qualifying campaign.
-The Republic of Ireland have never beaten Belgium in a competitive match (D5, L2). This is their first major tournament meeting.
Some notable facts
-Belgium have lost six of their last eight games at the Euros (W2), suffering 2-0 defeats in their three most recent matches.
-Only five of Belgium's 18 shots in their opener against Italy were struck from inside the box.
-Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku played alongside the Irish quartet of Seamus Coleman, Darron Gibson, James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady at Everton this season.
-The Republic of Ireland are competing at their third European Championship.
-Irish have not won at the tournament in their last six games, since beating England 1-0 on their Euros debut in 1988 (D2 L4).
-O Neil’s side have not won at the tournament in their last six games, since beating England 1-0 on their Euros debut in 1988 (D2 L4).