Sweden struggled through the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign and ended up in a play-off with Denmark; a tie they won thanks to three goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They were handed a tough draw in the tournament proper and had struggled in both their games so far, failing to register a shot on target in a 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland and being edged out 1-0 by Italy in their second game.
Belgium’s route to qualification was a little more tortuous than it should have been, given their relatively easy group, thanks to the defeat in Cardiff and draws against Wales and Bosnia. They made a poor start to their Euro 2016 campaign, being well beaten by an underrated Italian side, but recovered to beat the Republic of Ireland convincingly to keep their tournament hopes alive.
Sweden vs. Belgium – H2H Stats
Sweden versus Belgium is a fixture that dates back to 1908 when Belgium won the first ever meeting 2-1 in front of 2,000 people in Brussels.
The Swedes have enjoyed some success against Belgium, including a 7-0 victory in 1927 and an aggregate 4-0 victory over two games during the qualifying tournament for the 1962 World Cup, but overall have had the worst of their encounters, winning just four to Belgium’s eight, with two draws.
Belgium has won their last two matches, the most significant of which came during Euro 2000 when goals from Bart Goor and Emile Mpenza helped them to a 2-1 victory in the tournament’s opening match.
With nothing less than a win being good enough for Sweden, manager Erik Hamren might want to shake things up but having tried and failed to get his players to take to a less direct, more sophisticated style early in his tenure, it is unlikely that we’ll see any tactical variation now. Expect a solid-looking 4-4-2, plenty of energy, and a few long balls in the general direction of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Belgian coach Marc Wilmots got his team selection wrong in the first game against Italy, but the team looked much better with Kevin de Bruyne in a central position against the Republic of Ireland and Belgium will surely line up in a similar way for this game. Expect them to dominate possession and for the likes of de Bruyne and Eden Hazard to stretch the Swedish defence.
Sweden vs. Belgium Odds & Betting Markets
Italy’s three-man central defence offered Sweden the opportunity to exploit space behind the wing-backs, but they didn’t take it and despite having the majority of possession, as they did against the Republic of Ireland, Hamren’s side failed once again to have a single shot on target.
Belgium offers a different challenge and is the least defensively-minded of Sweden’s three opponents, so there could be opportunities for Ibrahimovic, and if Wilmot’s side reproduce the low energy performance they put up against Italy, it isn’t impossible to see Sweden make a real fight of this game. There are also question marks about the Belgian central defence, which looks shaky in the absence of Vincent Kompany.
But based on everything we’ve seen so far, Belgium doesn’t have too much to worry about. Sweden just doesn’t create enough chances and just as Portugal lean too heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo, so Sweden is far too dependent on Ibrahimovic to be both creator and goal-scorer. Although they have failed to live up to the hype in recent tournaments, and their manager is not what you’d call a tactical genius, Belgium does have one of the most exciting forward-lines in the competition, and this is a must-win game for them.
Back them to win and qualify for the second round at 5/6 with Coral.
Odds for First Goalscorer
Trying to pick a candidate for first goal-scorer from amongst the array of attacking talent in the Belgian squad is a tricky business. Given their manager’s propensity for unusual tactical decisions, we can’t be sure which players will be on the field and in which positions, so it makes sense to take a chance on Sweden coming up with the first goal, and who else would we turn to, but good old Zlatan.
Although Sweden is yet to muster a shot on goal, Belgium will be more open than either of their previous two opponents and Ibrahimovic could get an opportunity or two against the shaky Belgian defence.
Back him at 6/1 with Paddy Power.
Odds for Total Goals
Sweden may not be the most fluent side in the tournament, but this is a must-win game for them, as it is for Belgium, and with neither side looking strong at the back, we can expect a frantic, open game.
Back Over 2.5 Goals at 11/8 with Bet Victor.