By 90Min
June 22, 2018

Belgium will take on Tunisia in their second match of FIFA World Cup Group G in Moscow on Saturday, safe in the knowledge that they can effectively book their place in the round of 16 with a win. The Red Devils won their opener against Panama 3-0, after a devastating display in the second half.

Meanwhile, the Eagles of Carthage will need at least a point to maintain even an outside chance of reaching the second round, after a 2-1 defeat by England in their opening match. To put it mildly, it won't be at all easy for the Tunisians against a side currently in third place in the FIFA rankings.


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Belgium qualified in style for this summer's World Cup, winning nine of their ten matches and drawing the other. They also scored a staggering 43 goals while conceding just six. Apart from a disappointing goalless draw with Portugal, their warm-up friendlies continued in much the same vein, albeit against Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Costa Rica - not the most testing of opponents.


Tunisia could potentially draw some encouragement from the way in which Panama frustrated the Red Devils in the first half of their World Cup opener. However, the Belgians tore the Central American side to shreds in the second half of their 3-0 win.

The Africans' World Cup warm-up results were solid rather than spectacular, with their only wins coming against Iran and Costa Rica. Nevertheless, they achieved creditable draws with both Portugal and Turkey, before losing narrowly to Spain.

The Eagles of Carthage can also draw encouragement from their disciplined second half display in their opener against England - but for one late lapse from a set piece, they would have earned a point.


Team News

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Both Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen were included by Roberto Martinez in Belgium's final World Cup squad, although both were still recovering from a groin strain and a hamstring strain respectively. Both players are yet to recover full fitness, while midfielder Mousa Dembélé is still carrying an ankle injury.

Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen is out of the World Cup, after sustaining a shoulder injury against England. Otherwise, Nabil Maâloul's side have a clean bill of health for Saturday's clash.

Predicted Lineups:

Belgium (3-4-2-1): Thibaut Courtois; Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Jan Vertonghen; Thomas Meunier, Kevin de Bruyne, Axel Witsel, Yannick Carrasco; Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard; Romelu Lukaku.

Tunisia (4-1-4-1): Farouk Ben Mustapha; Dylan Bronn, Syam Ben Youssef, Yassine Meriah, Ali Maâloul; Ellyes Skhiri; Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, Ferjani Sassi, Anice Badri, Naim Sliti; Wahbi Khazri.


Previous Encounter: Group Stage, World Cup 2002

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Tunisia will hope that they can emulate the exploits of the 2002 side which held Belgium to a 1-1 draw.

The match started in frenetic fashion, with Marc Wilmots' early strike cancelled out by a brilliant Raouf Bouzaiene free kick just four minutes later. However, the players struggled in the intense heat and humidity in the Japanese city of Oita, and neither side were able to carve out a winner.

The Tunisians spent most of the second half defending, while the Belgians became increasingly desperate to score. Yet the Africans could have snatched a barely deserved win when Kaies Ghodbane connected with a late cross, only to see his powerful strike saved.


Belgium Expects From Its Golden Generation

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After the desperate disappointment of their 3-1 defeat by Wales in the 2016 European Championship quarter-final, Belgium fans expect a far more impressive showing in Russia this summer.

The current crop of players is widely regarded as the most talented in Belgian footballing history, with their two biggest stars, midfielder Kevin de Bruyne and winger Eden Hazard, either at or approaching the peak of their powers. They also have strength in every position and few obvious weaknesses - and yet their display against the Welsh was lacklustre at best.

Manager Roberto Martinez has also made some bold decisions in his squad selection which were not universally popular in Belgium (to put it mildly) - not least his omission of midfielder Radja Nainggolan.

Should the Belgians fail to reach at least the last four in Russia, Martinez's decisions will likely come under intense scrutiny.


Prediction

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Belgium will be greatly encouraged by Tunisia's display in their first half against England, as the Three Lions could have been out of sight if they'd been more clinical in front of goal. However, if the Red Devils start as lethargically as they did against Panama, they could be in for a very frustrating match - and Tunisia may not capitulate the way Panama did in the second half.

Nevertheless, Belgium have more than enough quality to make the necessary breakthrough. They may not win at a canter, but it's difficult to imagine that they won't win.


Predicted Result: Belgium 2-0 Tunisia

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