Belgium – Switzerland: Roberto Martínez fights fire with fire to spark game into life in second half (2-1)
Roberto Martínez used the half-time break to make adjustments that not only addressed Switzerland’s attacking threat, but gave Belgium the upper hand going forward. Commanding Thomas Meunier to push further forward and instructing Romelu Lukaku to play wider put Switzerland’s attacking plans into disarray.
The UEFA Nations League has thrown up a number of exciting three-way groups to play out over the final months of 2018. Belgium and Switzerland, however, find themselves effectively in a head-to-head battle to reach the Finals next summer, due to Iceland’s fall from grace. Belgium (3-0) and Switzerland (6-0) have both defeated the Icelanders with ease, making this effectively the first of a two-legged playoff for the first spot in the group.
Belgium lined up in their usual 3-4-3 formation. Jan Vertonghen’s injury forced Roberto Martínez’ only change to his starting lineup, with Barcelona’s Thomas Vermaelen coming into play at the left side of the back three - completed by Toby Alderweireld and Vincent Kompany.
Meunier and Yannick Carrasco were deployed wide and certainly in the first half were more focussed on their defensive roles than getting forward. This is partly due to the attacking width being ably provided by Dries Mertens and Eden Hazard, who lined up either side of Lukaku.
Switzerland had experimented with a back three in their September friendly defeat to England (1-0). Despite the result, Vladimir Petković had seen enough to deploy the same approach in this competitive game, albeit with the implementation of Nico Elvedi, Michael Lang and Remo Freuler to the side. Granit Xhaka sat in front of the defensive line with Xherdan Shaqiri playing just off Haris Seferović in attack.
Switzerland’s shape allowed . . .