Belgium and Argentina were both among the favorites to win the World Cup before the tournament started, and both have underwhelmed through their four games thus far despite both winning all their games. Argentina, with a serious case of Messi-dependencia, have looked unbalanced and shaky defensively while Belgium have struggled to finish flowing moves and with their offensive Plan A.
Argentina will likely be the favorites for this game, mainly due to conditions and crowd support, but there is no doubt that Belgium have sufficient quality and strength to surprise.
How Belgium will look to score
Belgium have shown they can score goals in multiple ways this tournament, from the counterattacking football on display against the United States to the Route 1 football employed against Algeria, there is no dearth of alternative plans. The problem has been with how they begin games.
The Europeans haven’t scored a goal in the first half all tournament, and usually leave it beyond 70 minutes when their substitutes have had time to alter the side’s formation and tactics. The explanations for this are numerous, Eden Hazard the main creative force has failed to shine, only creating 12 chances so far in the tournament (Kevin De Bruyne created 10 alone against the United States), and the centre-forward options are an out of form Romelu Lukaku or 19 year old Divock Origi fresh from an underwhelming season with Lille in Ligue 1. At their best both forwards love to drive forward and relish physical battles with centre-halves, encouraging fast play and multiple balls into the opposition box. But without them at their best Belgium have been slow in their play, often only looking threatening from their opponent’s mistakes.
Against the United States it could be argued that both Belgium goals would not have happened if the opposition wasn’t throwing so many men forward. While Lukaku’s strength helped him get away from his marker on the halfway line for the opener, he didn’t encounter much resistance afterwards. Wilmots’ substitutions should be credited for helping Belgium play at a higher tempo, but taking advantage of tired legs and kamikaze offensive play by the other side isn’t the mark of a champion offense.
Luckily there are positives for Belgium, Lukaku’s goal likely helped him regain confidence and he was a menace against the United States. Kevin De Bruyne and Dries Mertens are creating chances, in fact Belgium have no problem finding shots, and part of their low goal return could be due to being up against goalkeepers like Tim Howard in the form of their lives.