User Menu

Belgium boss Marc Wilmots still searching for the right balance

Manager ready to experiment in the final group game against South Korea

Belgium’s Divock Origi is congratulated by teammates Daniel Van Buyten and Axel Witsel after scoring a goal against Russia at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters
After a 12-year absence from the tournament, two wins and early qualification for the knockout stages of the World Cup should have meant Belgium going into today’s match against South Korea in a relatively relaxed mood.

But when Marc Wilmots makes changes to his side he will not just be giving some starters a breather before tougher tasks ahead but continuing his search for an optimum 11 after two unconvincing, if victorious, displays by a team tipped to be dark horses.

The biggest question mark is in attack. Romelu Lukaku has not look comfortable playing as a lone front man, asked in Wilmot’s system in which 4-3-3 is more often a 4-1-4-1 to hold the ball before the arrival of a dazzling array of attacking midfield talent.

The role is more suited to Christian Benteke but an injury in April ruled him out of the tournament. Lukaku prefers running at defenders and looked deeply frustrated when subbed off after a second poor display against Russia. His replacement Divock Origi scored after coming on and has been on the field for all three Belgian goals at the tournament so far. Only called up to the squad because of Benteke’s injury he is now fighting for a starting place in the second round.

Wilmots must also try and get the balance right in midfield where he has an embarrassment of riches which have failed so far to work as a cohesive unit, depending on a late cameo from the hitherto anonymous Eden Hazard to secure the win against Russia.

Having scored the winner after coming on against Algeria in the first game, Dries Mertens was handed a start against Russia and the Napoli player produced the liveliest performance of the first half before drifting out of the game. Which aspect Wilmots prefers to focus on will be one of the intriguing aspects of today’s selection considering his replacement Kevin Mirallas was involved in the winning goal and many Belgian fans would like to see Adnan Januzaj, who can also pay on the right, given a chance.

Little effect

Wilmots must also decide whether he should persist with Marouane Fellaini. Coming off the bench he equalised against Algeria and was rewarded with a start against Russia. But in that game he wandered all over the pitch to little effect, limiting the chances of the more potent Kevin De Bruyne to push forward.

Whatever the team, Belgium should be given space today in which to find solutions for these offensive dilemmas as South Korea’s remote chances of qualifying depend on a handsome win and a favourable result from the Algeria versus Russia match.