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Preview: Belarus vs. Belgium - prediction, team news, lineups
08/09/2021 14:16:59

Having come so close yet so far against Wales, Belarus prepare for another tough examination in World Cup 2022 qualifying against Group E against leaders Belgium on Wednesday night (7:45PM, 7 Sept).


The hosts fell to a last-gasp 3-2 defeat against the Welsh Dragons last time out, whereas Belgium cruised to a 3-0 victory over the Czech Republic.


Match preview


In a tale of three spot kicks, Belarus may have fallen behind to Gareth Bale's fifth-minute penalty on Sunday, but the world's 89th-ranked nation refused to wave the white flag as two quickfire strikes from Vitali Lisakovich and Pavel Sedko just before the half-hour mark saw them take a 2-1 lead into the break.


However, Bale would proceed to equalise from 12 yards in the 69th minute to set up a nerve-wracking 20 minutes for Belarus, whose captain and number one Sergey Chernik allowed a last-minute half-volley from the Real Madrid man to seep through his grasp into the back of the net.


It was a heartbreaking way for Georgi Kondratiev's side to suffer defeat after they looked capable of pulling off a mammoth shock for large portions of the encounter, and that result represented Belarus's fourth successive defeat across all competitions.


This week's hosts are still waiting for that elusive first major tournament appearance as an independent nation and sit fourth in the Group E standings with three points to their name, but second-placed Czech Republic - who have played a game more - are only four points clear of Kondratiev's side.


Belarus's only triumph of qualifying so far came on the opening day against Estonia, but they have at least managed to find the back of the net in each of their last six games on home soil, although they will need no reminding of the humbling they were served at the hands of Belgium last time out.


Having conceded twice to minnows Estonia during an otherwise routine win, Belgium's prospects of a clean sheet against the Czech Republic - with the likes of Adam Hlozek and Tomas Soucek featuring from the off - seemed relatively slim before the first whistle.


However, Roberto Martinez's side produced the goods to storm to a comfortable 3-0 win on the day, with Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Alexis Saelemaekers all contributing to a third consecutive World Cup qualifying win for the world's top-ranked nation.


Victory over the Czechs has seen Belgium open up a six-point gap at the top of the rankings in Group E with four wins and a draw from their five encounters so far, while their tally of 20 goals scored is the highest out of all the UEFA nations.


For all of their failures at the major tournaments when it matters most, Belgium have now gone 25 games unbeaten in World Cup qualifying since a 2-0 defeat to Estonia in 2009, and that run includes 11 wins from their last 12 qualification games on the road.


The Red Devils put eight unanswered goals past Belarus during an 8-0 drubbing back in March - which was the first-ever meeting between the two sides in any competition - but the hosts can at least take some confidence from their never-say-die attitude against Wales, even if the day did end on a sour note.


Team News


Belarus lost goalkeeper Yahor Hatkevich to COVID-19 infection before September's fixtures kicked off, with Chernik seeking an immediate upturn in fortunes following his costly mistake against Wales.


The hosting manager has little reason to make significant alterations in spite of the manner of their defeat last time out, although Gleb Shevchenko and Roman Yuzepchuk are pushing for starts over Roman Begunov on the right of a back five.


Meanwhile, Belgium manager Martinez will be forced into at least two changes after Lukaku and Jan Vertonghen picked up their second bookings of qualifying against the Czechs, although the former has also revealed that he is struggling with a thigh issue.


Christian Benteke and Michy Batshuayi are therefore set to battle it out to lead the line, while the injury-prone Eden Hazard could be rested as Leandro Trossard eyes another start in attack.


Dedryck Boyata should fill the void left by Vertonghen's absence in defence, and the likes of Saelemaekers and Leander Dendoncker could also push for starts in Kazan.


Belarus possible starting lineup:

Chernik; Shevchenko, Shvetsov, Khadarkevich, Sachivko, Pechenin; Ebong, Bykov, Sedko; Klimovich, Lisakovich


Belgium possible starting lineup:

Courtois; Alderweireld, Boyata, Vanheusden; Castagne, Dendoncker, Tielemans, Carrasco; Vanaken, Benteke, Trossard


We say: Belarus 1-4 Belgium


Belgium manager Martinez ought to shuffle the pack for this final fixture of the international break as he works around jelly legs, and another 8-0 thrashing is surely off the cards here.


The hosts performed valiantly against Wales even if their efforts did count for nought, but Belgium have swept aside almost everything before them in qualifying during the past 10 years and should cement their place at the summit with another routine success.


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