EURO 2024 PREVIEW

AUTHOR: Lewis Williams

EURO 2024 PREVIEW Mon: Belgium v Slovakia

On the opening day of Group E, Belgium begin their summer campaign to finally live up to their expectations and unlock the full potential of a squad who have never lived up to their billing, writes LEWIS WILLIAMS.

Belgium have always been the “shrewd” pick of major international tournaments from those at a double figure price – and understandably so. The firepower that Trossard, De Bruyne, prime Mertens and of course, Lukaku all contain have screamed green light for many a punter over the years – often to their expense.

However, crashing out most recently in the Qatar group stage behind Morocco and Croatia forms a larger image of overall failure completed by an underwhelming outing in Euro 2020 against Italy after downing the flag of Portugal.

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Their best performance in recent years comes from the World Cup of 2018 when they were defeated 1-0 by subsequent winners France in the semi-final. It’s a bit of a shame they couldn’t progress from that beating Brazil in the quarters at that event, but it gives us an opportunity to buy the dip now in potentially overpriced markets that are around.

Despite negative (albeit truthful) talk about the recent record of Belgium, manager Domenico Tedesco might have been handed a key to unlock the correct doors in Germany just a year after his appointment, with plenty of untapped talent within in squad peaking at the right time.

Although Jeremy Doku played in this event three years ago, he’s simply gone from strength to strength this season and has been hitting his prime at 22 with Manchester City, with 11 goal contributions in 11 games during his debut season under Pep. Although his strike rate in a Belgium shirt isn’t as prolific, he’s large enough at 5/2 to score anytime judged on his fantastic Luxembourg performance and an increased presence within the side this summer.

He is of course backed up by the inevitable veteran Kevin De Bruyne who shows no sign of decline after ending an 18-game season with 14 goal contributions. That’s without mentioning 21 year-old PSV star Johan Bakayoko and Arsenal forward Trossard, who have both netted exactly a dozen league goals for their respective clubs this season.

I recently watched legendary football punter Kevin Pullein’s #BettingPeople and the thing I took away from it is how volatile international sides really are, and how little it takes at big events, with just one small flash required, to win a major tournament. Therefore I’ve even concluded that 20/1 outright might be too big for this side.

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Belgium v Slovakia
UEFA EURO 2024 Group E
17:00 Amazon Prime Video / ITV / STV / ITVX / STV Player

LAST FIVE STATS

HEAD-TO-HEAD
FEB 2013 FRIENDLY Belgium 2-1 Slovakia
MAY 2006 FRIENDLY Slovakia 1-1 Belgium
APR 2002 FRIENDLY Belgium 1-1 Slovakia

BELGIUM
JUN 2024 FRIENDLY Belgium 3-0 Luxembourg
JUN 2024 FRIENDLY Belgium 2-0 Montenegro
MAR 2024 FRIENDLY England 2-2 Belgium
MAR 2024 FRIENDLY Ireland 0-0 Belgium
NOV 2023 EURO QUALIFIER Belgium 5-0 Azerbaijan

CROATIA
JUN 2024 FRIENDLY Slovakia 4-0 Wales
JUN 2024 FRIENDLY Slovakia 4-0 San Marino
MAR 2024 FRIENDLY Norway 1-1 Slovakia
MAR 2024 FRIENDLY Slovakia 0-2 Austria
NOV 2023 EURO QUALIFIER Bosnia & Herzegovina 1-2 Slovakia

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There’s absolutely nothing going on with this Slovakian side – the second largest outright price featured in the market – to make you think anything above a zero point finish and comprehensive defeats will occur.

A 4-0 thrashing of Wales in a friendly looks good on paper until you realise that was a similar Wales that couldn’t even get past Gibraltar at a crazy price of 1/11!

PSG defender Milan Skriniar behind Napoli midfielder Stanislav Lobotka are the shining lights of this team and they will be praying that those in front of them can do something with the service provided – but it’s less than likely and they’re priced at 11/2 to win this match accordingly.

VERDICT
The aforementioned young blood mixed with some pivotal experience could set Belgium alight in Germany and they’re certainly one to keep on the right side of. I think they’ll start their campaign this summer with a bang, and I’m backing -2 at ? with starsports.bet.


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PROFIT/LOSS (EURO 2024): -5.68 POINTS


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