Belgium – Russia: Belgium Prevail Over Early Pressure And Get Off To Winning Start (3-1)
Group I’s first set of matches pitted two of last year’s big-story-nations – Belgium and Russia – against each other. In an affair that saw Belgium rule over Russia with their individual quality, Roberto Martínez’s tactical tweaks partly helped his side escape a troubling start.
Tactical analysis and match report by Peter M.
As both teams regrouped for the first time since mid-November, there were plenty of changes in both lineups. For Belgium in particular, due to a growing list of injuries. Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel - to name a few - were all sidelined, leaving Eden Hazard to carry the load as Belgium hoped to bounce back from their unexpected 5-2 defeat to Switzerland last time out.
Also looking to bounce back from defeat were Russia, where only four of the players who started in a 2-0 loss in Sweden also named in the eleven for this encounter. There was even a change of system, as Stanislav Cherchesov now had his team set up in a 3-4-3, which was most likely a way of combating Belgium’s shape.
All twenty-two outfield depicted in their general position when Belgium had the ball.
Russia’s adventurous press proves somewhat problematic for Belgium
Russia were keen not to be the antagonists at the beginning of this game. They were fully prepared to go after Belgium, as was reflected by their mirroring shape, which enabled them to press man-for-man and genuinely test the quality of Roberto Martínez’s side without De Bruyne and Witsel in midfield.
Russia’s double pivot 4-2-3-1 is one . . .