An Interesting Night In Jerusalem
The Belgian national team has arrived in Jerusalem before the vital game against Israel. It must be real torture for the Belgian players to be on a plane for a few hours without any form of internet connection. Shortly after landing the Red Devil selfie machine got rolling again, pumping out a seemingly endless stream of silly pictures. The media are having a field day. Who needs journalists or photographers if the players are broadcasting their entire experience ? Those who are not taking pictures are jumping in the frame of their colleagues’ snapshots. It shows the team is in high spirits, and the 5-0 victory against Cyprus will certainly have contributed to the general atmosphere in the team.
After the 1-0 in the rainy King Boudewijn stadium in Brussels on Saturday, in the minutes before Christian Benteke headed in for the 2-0 for a moment they looked happy with the small lead. As if they were anticipating Cyprus to come charging forward in immediate reaction, they retreated. Viewers worldwide were grabbing for their remote. Ten years ago this approach would certainly have backfired and let the opponent back into the game, but it’s another illustration of how this generation is very different than previous underachieving ones. They can afford lapses in their mental game because of their superior footballing ability. If this team can hit their stride and can shake that seemingly typically Belgian trait of being happy at being second best, then great things are in the future. It’s a controversial sentiment and a favourite talking point among Belgian supporters but something that is certainly still present, remember Marc Wilmots calling the World Cup campaign a success only minutes after crashing out in the Quarter Finals against Argentina. Arguably, when you’re fourth on the FIFA world ranking and only two wins away of second place on that list, you’re doing something right.
The opposition then.
Israel had started their campaign with a perfect 9 points out of 9, but couldn’t handle Gareth Bale running at them on Saturday. They are in for another big test on Tuesday. This is the 6th meeting between the two teams , Belgium lead Israel with 4 victories against just the one for Israel. This game was originally scheduled on September 9th of last year but was postponed due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict flaring up at that time.
Israeli forward Omer Damari who was instrumental in their first three games is out injured , Eitan Tibi got himself suspended by picking up a second yellow against Wales and Tal Ben Haim had to skip group training due to an old injury flaring up.
A win would mean the top spot in Group B for Belgium, equal on points with Wales but leading on goal difference. Wilmots is expected to field a very similar team to the one he put on paper on Saturday, with one or two changes at the maximum. We’re expecting Chadli and possibly Divock Origi to be given play minutes on Tuesday. Expect more piledriving crosses by Kevin De Bruyne towards Fellaini and Eden Hazard running at a very defensive Israeli line-up, trying to counterattack.
It’ll be a very interesting night in Jerusalem.