Friday October 7th 19.45
A strange match to preview, we hear you say, and you’d be right. Truth be told, Friday night isn’t exactly awash with interesting ties. The reason that this particular tie finds itself beneath the lens of our scathing critique is simply down to the new manager of Belgium. Step forward, Roberto Martinez.
The happy-go-lucky Spaniard was let go by Everton at the tail end of last season and even though they enjoyed a great season in his first year in charge, few were sorry to see him go.
Seemingly fans aren’t reassured by honeyed words fro the boss when faced by grim, contradictory realities on the pitch. The eyes know what they see, the ears will not be fooled by that which they hear. In the end it became apparent that Martinez really should would have been at home on the deck of the titanic, calmly explaining that deck chairs look better that way.
Still, if the weekly rough and tumble of league management was beyond him, maybe the infrequency of international football wouldn’t expose these failings so tellingly. After all, this Belgium team was chock-full of attacking talent and didn’t really need a coach to make them better players so much as a coach that could instill a positive guiding principle which would harness their skills toward a common goal.
He’s not quite at Brendan Rodgers level but the Belgian F.A. would have been swayed by the dream weaver that is Martinez, especially when compared with his predecessor, the uninspiring Marc Wilmots.
Martinez lost his first match in charge, albeit a tough fixture against Spain. Their first match in this qualifying group saw them get a fairly facile win over Cyprus with two goals from an in-form Romelo Lukaku. However, it’s hard to take too much information or succor from that result and Bosnia-Herzegovina should represent a significant upgrade on their last opponent.
The visitors helped themselves to an impressive 5-0 win over Estonia in their first group game with a goal from Edin Dzeko and two from their centre back, the veteran Emir Spahic, amongst others. In addition, they can also point to one Miralem Pjanic.
A set-piece specialist, the new Juventus player is a tactically versatile midfielder who will look to dictate play from deep as well as close to the forward line. Whether his team mates can provide the platform for him to prosper remains to be seen.
It will certainly be difficult against a defensive line consisting of Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen. These seasoned campaigners will not be easily shaken from their tasks and the visitors will have to hope that Dzeko displays an uncharacteristic ability to take full advantage of the chances when they come.
Even with his famed nonchalance with regard to defense, Martinez will surely be unable to dismantle his back line’s play to any reasonable extent (yet). With a solid base to work from, Belgium should have enough talent further up the pitch to claim all three points here. The best price for a Belgium win is 4/9 and comes by way of Betway amongst others.