Belgium vs Norway by 20Legend
Belgium faced Finland (1-1) back on Wednesday which should have been a formality in terms of their starting lineup. The game started off as predicted with Belgium dominating everything during the first half. They created clear chances and looked dangerous every time they were given the ball. However, the efficiency was horrible and it definitely needs to be fixed if they are going to challenge teams like Germany, France and Spain for the title during the Euros next week. The second half did not give them the extra confidence though as their horrible precision continued. It all became worse when Finland suddenly struck after a cross on the left hand side after 53 minutes.
Their striker Hamalainen came in with speed and none of Belgium’s defensive players were able to pick him up. The Belgian waste of chances then continued and Christian Benteke’s miss on open goal after 78 minutes gave a good picture of how terrible their finishing was this evening. It was therefore almost a sensation that Romelu Lukaku was able to score on a rebound with his chest after 88 minutes.
What should have been a walk in the park for Belgium actually became a match were they was extremely close on loosing. They had 68% of the ball possession, 17 corners and seven shots at goal, but it does not help when you can’t score the needed goals. That is what this game is all about, but it also gives a good picture in how difficult it is to predict an international friendly.
The Belgian team has received several negative defensive injuries prior to the Euros which obviously is a challenge for any team. Vincent Kompany, Bjorn Engels and Dedryck Boyata were all ruled out of the squad, before Nicolas Lombaerts got injured last week as well. The newest problem for Belgium is Thomas Vermaelen who felt pain to his calf in training the same on Friday. He will therefore be spared tonight together with Yannick Ferreira Carrasco who also deals with a groin-problem. It is also expected that Moussa Dembele, Maoruane Fellaini and Radja Nainggolan could be rested against Norway.
Norway did finally get a nice win to their belt as Iceland got beaten 3-2 back on Wednesday. It was a game were the Norwegian team managed to continue their good 1st half against Portugal some days earlier. It all started in the most perfect way with midfielder Stefan Johansen scoring after 40 seconds that gave Norway the initiative. However, the Norwegian strikers are struggling on scoring goals and they were not efficient enough this time either. With the Norwegian strikers missing their opportunities, Iceland equalized with one of their first attempts after 36 minutes after a cross from the left hand side. Norway then got a free kick on the edge of the box after 41 minutes where winger Pal Andre Helland scored beautifully to give Norway a 2-1 lead to halftime.
The Norwegians continued on being the best team and controlled the game in terms of producing the most chances. Their coach Per Mathias Hogmo decided to let two youngsters making their way into the team after 53 minutes with Martin Samuelsen (West Ham) and Alexander Sorloth (Groningen) entering the pitch. It did give the team an immediate reaction with the dribbling feet of Samuelsen that challenged the Icelandic defenders time and time again.
Their third goal came after Samuelsen’s footwork which ended with a rebound from the keeper, but Sorloth following up the rebound and chipped the goalkeeper in order to mae his first goal on the international arena. It all became unnecessary exciting after 81 minutes when Vegard Forren gave Iceland a penalty. Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea) had no problem to make it 3-2. All in all it was a deserved win for Norway who actually produced a lot of chances this evening. Iceland started with some of their key-players on the bench before putting them on in the second half. However, it gave Norway some positive vibes to build on against a much better opponent on paper tonight. Winger Pal Andre Helland (Rosenborg) has been ruled out from the squad after the game against Iceland in order to rest.
This match is the last chance for Belgium to get their efficiency up before the Euros is about to begin. Their performance against Finland showed their capabilities of creating chances and be dominant during their games. It is therefore easy to understand why Belgium can be a contender for the title in the Euros given that their precision increases off course.
Norway has no Euro 2016 in sight, but is using their friendlies to get experiences towards the WC-qualification that starts in September against Germany. They have met two strong opponents in Portugal and Iceland so far which have given some positive answers. Belgium should certainly show a better side of themselves and increase their efficiency in their last game.
All the players want to be in the starting lineup for the Euros, so the motivation should clearly be there given the extreme competition for a starting role. It should be a different class between a team that is heading for the Euros and a team that is only getting valuable experience in front of the WC qualification in September. However, it is some defensive questions surrounding the team at the moment which could be Norway’s hope here. The away side has no pressure and has confidence from their recent win against Iceland. On the other side, Belgium wants surely wants some confidence into the team before heading to the tournament.
Their performance against Finland was terrible and it shows that Norway can score in a friendly like this if they just work hard enough. With the uncertainty surrounding the home team’s lineup as well, I expect a highly entertaining match which makes over 2.5 goals an interesting choice in my opinion.