Sam WattSan Marino vs Belgium, Friday September 6th, 19:45, Stadio Olimpico di Serravalle. San Marino, the definitive minnows of international football, host World Cup semi-finalists Belgium in a fixture where anything other than a heavy defeat would be a moral victory for the home side.
San Marino, the definitive minnows of international football, host World Cup semi-finalists Belgium in a fixture where anything other than a heavy defeat would be a moral victory for the home side.
A moral victory it would be but it’s hard to see San Marino coming away with even that. The teams are bottom and top respectively of Group I, and have diametrically opposed records. Belgium have played four and won four, while San Marino have played four and lost four.
Those four defeats have largely all been thrashings – only a 2-0 reverse at home to Scotland carries a veneer of respectability. But 5-0 to Cyprus, 9-0 against Russia and 4-0 in Kazakhstan are more in-keeping with San Marino’s usual results, and Belgium are capable of at least matching the Russian result.
Belgium’s perfect record has come with 10 goals for and only one against – in a 3-1 win over Russia, who remain the biggest threat to the Red Devils’ supremacy in the group. That game was in Brussels but the decisive meeting will be November, when Roberto Martinez takes his team to Saint Petersburg.
Cyprus, Kazakhstan and Scotland have been swatted away since the Russia game without so much as a goal conceded and with Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku linking well together, it’s not hard to see why Belgium went far in the World Cup, or why they’re among the Euro 2020 favourites.
Martinez has that trio plus Dries Mertens and Divock Origi to turn to for this fixture, and anything under a 6-0 win would be Belgium playing within their capabilities.
And Belgium are hugely capable – even when San Marino pack the defence, Belgium will get through frequently. An away win of 7-0 isn’t outrageous.
The Belgian pressure on the San Marino goal will be constant – all 10 outfield players from the away team will be camped in the home half. Eventually it’ll tell, with a wild clearance or unfortunate deflection likely considering how many defenders will be in the home penalty area. So 10Bet’s 11/2 on an own goal comes into play.
Belgium are pretty much capable of scoring at will against San Marino – Russia got nine, and Belgium are a better team than that. But they’ve also got Scotland a few days later, and the bookies might not be wrong if they think Martinez’s team will hold back once they rack up a respectable score. Over 6.5 goals at 21/20 from 10Bet covers a lot of options.
Head to Head
Belgium won 8-0 when the countries met in 2005, but before that struggled to a 2-1 victory.
They did record a 10-0 thumping in 2001, however.
No player has more assists so far in Euro 2020 qualification than Mertens, who is level on three with a host of players – including Antoine Griezmann and Memphis Depay.
No defender has completed more passes than Belgium’s Toby Alderweireld’s 375 – Sergio Ramos is next on the list with 348.
San Marino haven’t so much as scored a competitive goal since a 5-1 defeat to Azerbaijan in 2017.
Belgium have had seven different scorers in qualification so far – Hazard, Lukaku, De Bruyne and Mertens, as well as Michy Batshuayi, Timothy Castagne and Youri Tielemens.
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