Struggling For Balance In Midfield
Wilmots started the first game with a midfield three of Axel Witsel, Mousa Dembele and Kevin De Bruyne. Throughout the game, that triumvirate failed to establish any kind of tempo or incisiveness, making the Red Devils look a little blunt in the middle of the park. In the end, they introduced Marouane Fellaini, went a little more direct and it ultimately paid off.
In truth, it’s an area in which Belgium have failed to find rhythm throughout the tournament. Witsel lhas been good in the holding role, and Fellaini added a little more steel to that position against Russia, but again, neither have the vision to cause real problems for opposition defenders with slick, sharp passing.
SEE MORE — Read our Belgium World Cup Preview.
More needs to come from Belgium’s most creative player in that area, De Bruyne. He finished the season superbly for his club side Wolfsburg, showcasing real ingenuity and an eye for a killer pass. He’ll be tasked with picking up the ball in those pockets between the United States’ defensive line, and when he does, he needs to make much better use of the ball than he has done in his showings so far.
Wide Areas Are Vital For Belgium Attack
Belgium have great quality in the wide areas, but as is the case with the central midfield, Wilmots doesn’t seem settled on personnel. On the right-hand side, he has a plethora of options, but Kevin Mirallas, Nacer Chadli and Dries Mertens have all started a game each in that position so far.
Chadli started the opener in that role, which would suggest he’s Wilmots preferred choice, but expect him to go for the more direct qualities of either Mertens or Mirallas for the last-16. Their pace from that position will be vital when breaking down the United States, who will sit in deep and look to play on the break.
HEAR MORE — Listen to our Belgium World Cup Preview.
Whoever starts out of the aforementioned duo will need to provide width from the right flank, helping to laterally stretch the American’s back-four and in turn facilitate space for the likes of De Bruyne to influence the game in central areas too.
While the right-hand side remains a topic for debate, Eden Hazard has his place on the left wing sewn up. He’s the crown jewel of this Belgium attack, capable of beating his opposing full-back on the outside or inside; he’s also extremely adept at coming in off the flank and linking up with the central midfielders and the centre forward. Hazard is the player Klinsmann must figure out a way of stopping if his side stand a realistic chance.