Sweden v Belgium
Thursday June 23, 5:00am
Belgium can’t win Group E but a point here would guarantee their safe passage into the Last 16. They’ll be very confident of securing that point after their strong bounce-back to form performance against Ireland. Marc Wilmots’ side dominated the game and kicked on to win 3-0 after a goalless opening 45 minutes.
They’ll expect to dominate possession again here and extend their very impressive recent record of W8-D1-L1 against lower-ranked opposition. Interestingly, over a longer spell, Belgium have drawn five of six unbeaten matches against teams ranked 21-40.
Sweden were mightily unlucky to not get a point against Italy as they succumbed to an 88th minute Eder goal. The pressure is now on them to get a positive result here as they slipped up by only drawing with the Republic of Ireland in the opener – we have the Irish ranked one place below Sweden so a stalemate wasn’t the biggest of shocks.
Furthermore, Ireland have benefited from Italy already guaranteeing top-spot in the pool as Antonio Conte’s side can rest their full starting XI, including their ageing Juventus back three, if they wish ahead of the knockout phase.
This is Sweden’s 12th Finals match against a team ranked in the top-20 this century and the Scandinavian side are still searching for their first victory which has included defeats in their last four. More generally, their record against similar ranked sides in all matches recently is W1-D0-L8 and their sole victory was against an Iranian team we had ranked exactly 20th.
Sweden and Belgium have met just twice since 2000 and the Belgians have won both games. There have been nine matches in the last three editions of this competition where a team has been ranked 11-25 places higher than their opponents in a final group stage match and the better team has won all nine previous games. We think Belgium will have too much firepower for a decaying Swedish side here.
BACK – Belgium Win 1.85