With the club season now behind us all over Europe, the focus switches to international football. Yet another round of the UEFA Nations League has begun already and Belgium will now face The Netherlands at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels. Belgium and Netherlands have been drawn alongside Poland and Wales in League A Group 4, and both teams will play four matches each over the next couple of weeks in the competition.
During the previous edition of the UEFA Nations League in 2020 21, Belgium finished on top of League A Group 2 and they also managed to reach the semi-finals. However, they suffered a 3-2 defeat to France in the last four of the competition before also suffering another 2-1 loss at the hands of eventual European champions Italy in the third-place playoff.
This time around, however, Roberto Martinez’s team have been drawn alongside Netherlands, Poland, and Wales in the group stage and therefore it will not exactly be surprising to see them making it to the semi-final stage of the competition once again.
Belgium will face the Netherlands and Wales once and then take on Poland boys over the next couple of weeks. However, their focus will already be on the 2022 World Cup, which is going to be held in Qatar. They have been drawn into the group alongside Canada, Morocco and Croatia.
Led by the brilliance of Captain Eden Hazard, the Red Devils finished third at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. France’s Samuel Umtiti scored the only goal of the game from a header to deny Belgium a ticket to the final of the competition but they bounced back quickly and defeated England 2-0 in the third-place playoff match four days later.
Belgium failed to make a positive impression at Euro 2020. They seemed lackluster throughout the competition and eventually departed in the quarter-finals after losing to eventual winners in Italy. Despite that, Belgium still have one of the most talented sides in world football and Roberto Martinez will be pushing to get one last dance out of this golden generation of Belgian players at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The upcoming games will be crucial in their bid to build momentum for it.
The Netherlands finished as the runners up of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, losing the final to Spain 1-0 courtesy of Andres Iniesta’s sensational extra-time goal. However, they exacted their revenge and hammered five goals past La Roja in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil where they lost to Argentina in the semi-final on penalties and eventually settled for third. The Dutch team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup held in Russia and lost three of their 10 qualification fixtures.
Much to the relief, they have already booked the tickets for Qatar and finished on top of Group G with 23 points from their 10 matches during a strong campaign. It’ll be interesting to see how they perform on the big stage of the World Cup later this year.
Netherlands had also finished as runners-up, losing the final to Portugal in the 2019-20 edition of the UEFA Nations League. In the previous edition of the competition in 2020-21, the Netherlands finished second in League, A Group One behind Italy, and the European champions ended up advancing to the semi-finals of the competition, where they defeated Belgium.
Louis van Gaal’s team entertain World Cup qualifying campaign with a solid 2-0 win over Norway last November. Since then, they have played two friendlies against Denmark and Germany in March. They defeated Denmark 4-2 before settling on a 1-1 stalemate with the latter three days later.
The last two matches between Netherlands and Belgium have ended in 1-1 draws and the two sides haven’t been separated in the last 120 minutes between them. Both the matches have been friendlies and the two countries have not met each other in a competitive fixture since the 1998 World Cup. On that occasion as well, the match ended in a goalless stalemate during the group stages.
BEL vs NED, UEFA Nations League
Date: 4th June, 2022
Time: 12:15 AM IST
Venue: King Baudoin Stadium, Brussels
Belgium Nations League form:
Belgium form (all competitions):
Netherlands Nations League form:
Netherlands form (all competitions):
Belgium wins: 41
Netherlands wins: 55
Belgium Team News: Belgium will be without the services of their number 1 in goal Thibaut Courtois. Courtois produced an all-time great performance and made several astonishing and memorable saves in the UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool to be crowned the Man of the Match. He has pulled out of the squad due to a groin strain.
Jason Denayer meanwhile has also suffered an ankle issue and is expected to miss out. Dedryck Boyata could start in his place in the middle of the defence. Meanwhile, Koen Casteels might receive the nod to start between the sticks in the absence of the Real Madrid goalkeeper.
Eden Hazard has only recovered from an operation on his leg during the later stages of the season, but the star forward has been included in the squad by Roberto Martinez and could be in a position to start this game. Kevin De Bruyne continues to be the midfield general for Belgium and he had yet another sensational season with Manchester City.
The usual suspects in the Belgian midfield Axel Witsel, Youri Tielemans, Thomas Meunier, and Yannick Ferrera Carrasco are also expected to start from the first minute. While Romelu Lukaku struggled in his first season following his return to Chelsea, once again he will be expected to lead the line as Belgium’s number 9.
Netherlands Team News: As far as the Netherlands are concerned, Louis van Gaal might be tempted to give Mark Flekken a start a goal and the Dutch are expected to resort to the famous back three system adopted and implemented by Johan Cryuff. Matthijs de Ligt and Virgil van Dijk are holding down two places while Ajax’s latest revelation, Jurrien Timber is also pushing for a strong. He enjoyed an impressive campaign with the Dutch club and has also been linked with Manchester United following Erik ten Hag’s recent appointment. However, Manchester City’s reserve defender Nathan Ake is also in contention to start ahead of the young Timber.
Memphis Depay has had a roller coaster of a season at Barcelona. While he was very influential in the initial half of the campaign, his prominence declined due to injuries and the arrival of Aubameyang in the second half. He will certainly start in the final third of the pitch and is likely to be joined by Wout Weghorst. Meanwhile, Steven Bergwijn, Noa Lang, and Cody Gakpo are also options to come off from the bench and reinvigorate the attack.
Frenkie de Jong is expected to be the catalyst in midfield as usual. As rumors continue to swirl linking him to Manchester United, he has repeatedly mentioned his desire to stay and succeed at Barcelona. A veteran of many years, Daley Blind continues to play an important role in the Dutch national team and will be expected to start here as well.
Belgium possible starting lineup:
Casteels; Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen; Meunier, Tielemans, Witsel, Carrasco; E Hazard, Lukaku, De Bruyne
Netherlands possible starting lineup:
Flekken; De Ligt, Van Dijk, Ake; Dumfries, Berghuis, Koopmeiners, F de Jong, Blind; Weghorst, Memphis
Going by the script of the previous few meetings between Belgium and the Netherlands, both managers would probably have accepted the draw if it was offered to them ahead of the kickoff. Both sides are very evenly matched and have similar kinds of strengths and weaknesses all over the pitch. Therefore, it won’t be improbable to see them sharing the points once again on Friday night.
Belgium just edge the Netherlands in terms of sheer talent on the pitch. However, the Dutch side is also strong and resilient, especially at the back, and it will be difficult for the Belgian attackers to attain a breakthrough.