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Dark Horse Belgium to Fall at First or Second Knockout Fence

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May 10, 2018
Belgium are many people's dark horse for the World Cup
20160701 – Lille , France / UEFA EURO 2016 1/4 FINAL : WALES vs BELGIUM / Marouane FELLAINI – Eden HAZARD – Ontgoocheling Deception Uefa Euro 2016 France Quarter Final / Pays de Galles / Belgique / Belgie / Red Devils / Diables Rouges / Rode Duivels / So

Every major tournament has its dark horse, the team which the hipster brigade singles out for special attention, and the result is that the nominated side kicks off under its true odds both in match betting and futures markets.

For the second consecutive competition, Belgium is set to be given the dark horse kiss of death and that would be great news for value-conscious FIFA World Cup punters because there are great odds available about the Red Devils not living up to their billing as potential champions.

According to the FIFA World Ranking, Belgium is the fifth best national team on the planet, which puts the Red Devils ahead of, among others, Italy and Spain – two sides which have rolled over Roberto Martinez’s men in the last two years. The World Football Elo Ratings statisticians, who take a different approach to assessing the merits of national teams than the FIFA World Ranking number crunchers, list Belgium in eighth position and even that may be a bit too high.

The FIFA World Cup draw was kind to Belgium, placing it in the same group as one decent side and two ordinary teams. The decent side is England, which is adjacent to Belgium in the World Football Elo Ratings but probably short of enough top-class players to go all the way in Russia. The ordinary teams are Panama, which is ranked outside the top 40 on both commonly cited charts, and Tunisia, which is 53rd in the World Football Elo Ratings, making it the second weakest side to have made it through to this year’s big show.

Stranger things have happened but Belgium and England should fill the top two spots in FIFA World Cup group G, thereby qualifying for the knockout stage and a round-of-16 clash with one of the qualifiers from group H. If Belgium reaches the FIFA World Cup knockout stage then its opponent in the round must be one of Colombia, Japan, Poland or Senegal. FIFA World Cup group H may not house one of the genuine powerhouses but it rates as the most competitive of the eight pools and none of its four participants is a mug.

A Tough Draw Gets Even Tougher

Belgium will know it is in a game if it makes it through to the FIFA World Cup round of 16. And, if Belgium reaches the FIFA World Cup last eight as it did in Brazil four years ago, the likelihood is that the Red Devils would run into either Brazil or Germany at that point. Regardless of which statistical chart in which you place the greatest faith, Brazil and Germany are the world’s best two national sides and there is a significant gap to the third-ranked team.

Bookmakers betting on Belgium’s stage of elimination in the FIFA World Cup are offering great odds about the Red Devils exiting the tournament in the quarter-finals. Belgium does not strike me as a likely FIFA World Cup semi-finalist and the Red Devils should have too many attacking weapons not to find paths to the goal against Panama and Tunisia, neither of which would be in Russia if the preliminaries were truly about identifying the top 32 sides irrespective of geography.

Late last year, one of Belgium’s prized assets, Kevin de Bruyne, openly criticised Martinez’s tactics after a 3-3 friendly draw between the Red Devils and Mexico. It was a shock that Belgium entrusted its golden generation to Martinez following UEFA Euro 2016 because his record as a club boss does not read well. Yes, Martinez won England’s third division with Swansea and he was Wigan’s English FA Cup-winning manager but the Latics were relegated from the English Premier League before their upset win at Wembley Stadium and the Spaniard left behind a mess at Everton.

One suspects that all is not right in the Belgium camp, that the Red Devils are overrated by too many pundits desperate to look as though they know something different. Snap up the available odds about Belgium qualifying for the FIFA World Cup knockout stage but not progressing to the last four and look forward to a team such as Brazil or Germany eliminating the Red Devils in the first week of July.

About the author

Alan Penny
Alan Penny


Alan hails from Northern Ireland and is an avid fan of all sports. He has been with us since 2017 and serves as SBO’s Editor-in-Chief. Alan passionately covers everything from the latest regulatory developments across the globe to tips on the latest football matches.