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Belgium vs Republic of Ireland. European Championships Group E.

Nouveau Stade BordeauxAttendance39,493.

Belgium 3

  • R Lukaku (48th minute, 70th minute)
  • A Witsel (61st minute)

Republic of Ireland 0

    Belgium v Republic of Ireland preview: Martin O'Neill demands battling display in Euro 2016 clash

    Belgium v Republic of Ireland

    Martin O'Neill is challenging his Republic of Ireland side to make life tough for Belgium when the duo meet at Euro 2016 in Bordeaux on Saturday (kick-off 2pm).

    The much-fancied Belgians are looking to collect their first Group E point following Monday's disappointing opening game 2-0 defeat at the hands of Italy.

    Ireland shared the spoils with Sweden in a 1-1 draw earlier that day with an impressive and spirited display which arguably deserved more having seen Wes Hoolahan's quality finish cancelled out by an unfortunate Ciaran Clark own goal.

    Belgium will be strong favourites and desperate to bounce back from their Italian setback, a fact O'Neill knows only too well.

    Head Coach Martin O'Neill of Republic of Ireland
    Image: Martin O'Neill sees Belgium as the most talented squad at Euro 2016

    "I think they are possibly the most talented set of individual players at the tournament, that would be my view of them," he said.

    "They've got talent and players playing big, big matches every single week at club level, so we have to cope with that. I think they are very, very dangerous.

    "It will be a tough night for us. We want to try to make it as tough for them as well."

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    Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane played a prank on goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh during a training session at Euro 2016

    A major question mark hangs over Belgium's qualifying prospects in the wake of that Italy result, something O'Neill admits he didn't predict before the Euros began.

    He said: "When the group was announced, I think that Belgium finishing any worse than second is not something that they would have contemplated, so they will be coming out all guns blazing.

    "We have to deal with that and the individual threat from them that they have got in abundance. We're going to have to show the same sort of attitude [as we did against Sweden] again."

    Marc Wilmots refused to blame his Premier League players after Belgium's opening defeat
    Image: Marc Wilmots is not despairing about Belgium's prospects

    Under-fire Belgian coach Marc Wilmots has received plenty of media criticism following the Italy match, but still managed to take some positives from the display.

    He said: "We have moved on from the disappointing defeat versus Italy and we are now fully focused on the game against Ireland.

    "I saw room for improvement against Italy, but that does not mean everything was bad about that game. I saw plenty of reasons for optimism as well. Let's not forget about that."

    Team news

    Apart from Jonathan Walters, who has been ruled out with an Achilles injury, Ireland have no other major injury fears from the side which impressed for long periods against Sweden.

    Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard are both expected to be available having suffered minor injury problems.

    Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne in action against Finland in a pre-Euro 2016 friendly
    Image: Kevin De Bruyne should be fit to face the Irish

    But Wilmots has hinted he could freshen up his attack after they drew a blank on Monday.

    The Belgian coach said: "I don't know yet whether Romelu [Lukaku] will start again. I will have to think about the line-up.

    "It's not like all his confidence is gone all of a sudden after the match versus Italy. I have a number of options, though, and we will see which one is the best."

    Romelu Lukaku had a tough night as Belgium lost to Italy
    Image: Romelu Lukaku had a tough night as Belgium lost to Italy

    Another big decision for Wilmots is whether to drop keeper Thibaut Courtois after the Chelsea stopper publicly criticised the manager's tactics against Italy. That could potentially signal a start for Liverpool's Simon Mignolet.

    Match stats

    Belgium are unbeaten in their last six matches against the Republic of Ireland (W2 D4). They have not faced each other since November 1997, when Belgium beat Ireland 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier.

    Ireland have not beaten Belgium since May 1966, a 3-2 win in a friendly.

    This will be the first time these teams have faced off in the finals of a major tournament.

    Republic of Ireland's Robbie Keane during a training session at the Stade de Montbauron, Versailles.
    Image: Striker Robbie Keane has been in prolific recent form for the Republic of Ireland

    Ireland have lined up against Belgium seven times before in competitive matches, failing to win any of them (D5 L2) and keeping only one clean sheet.

    Robbie Keane has scored 11 goals in his last 13 starts for the Republic of Ireland.

    Belgium have lost six of their last eight games at the EURO (W2), including the last three by the same 0-2 scoreline.

    The Belgians have conceded a goal in each of their last eight games, their longest run without a clean sheet for 30 years (9 games, May to September 1986).

    LYON, FRANCE - JUNE 13:  Eden Hazard of Belgium in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group E match between Belgium and Italy at Stade des Lumieres on June 1
    Image: Belgium's Eden Hazard will be looking to break his duck at a major international competition

    The Republic of Ireland have not gone past the group stages of the Euros in their two previous appearances (1988, 2012). They won their first match at the 1988 finals (1-0 v England) but have failed to win any of their subsequent six games (D2 L4).

    Eden Hazard has yet to score in 458 minutes at major tournaments.

    Only five of Belgium's 18 shots in their opener against Italy were struck from inside the box.

    Emile Mpenza was the last player to score for Belgium at the Euros back in June 2000 against Sweden.

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    Jordan Lukaku is hoping to line up alongside his brother, Everton striker Romelu, for Belgium

    Merson's prediction

    Belgium were one team I did not fancy to win the tournament. Everyone was telling me how good they were but I just cannot see them winning it. They're not a team. They're just a load of good individuals put out on the pitch.

    Meanwhile, Ireland have got that team spirit. They went out and had a go against Sweden. They were excellent. I can see them picking up another point against Belgium.

    PAUL PREDICTS: 1-1 (Sky Bet's odds: 11/2)

    Betting

    Belgium are Sky Bet's 3/4 favourites for the victory with Republic of Ireland up against odds of 4/1 to win and 5/2 to secure another draw. Belgium are also odds-on to make the knockout stages while Martin O'Neill men are given an 11/10 chance of progressing. Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke share favouritism in the first goalscorer betting at 7/2, while Shane Long is considered the main Irish threat at 7/1. 

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