Football

Marc Wilmots has been head coach since 2012.

Belgium suffer from same old problems during Italy defeat

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If England fans get tired of being disappointed by "same old England" then spare a thought for the Belgians. 

Named as outside favourites for the European Championships, as they were in Rio two years ago for the World Cup, Belgium once again failed to deliver on the big stage. 

It was as if nothing had changed since Belgium's World Cup failings, as Marc Wilmots' side set up and played in exactly the same way during their 2-0 loss to Italy.

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The Red Devils were devoid of ideas, lacked a chemistry and perhaps most worryingly of all, failed to catch the eye despite fielding a starting eleven bursting with flair.

Belgium's biggest problems during their opening match was their inability to play through the centre of the field, and Wilmots' desire to shoehorn all his best players into one team.

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Wilmots, who has been Belgium's manager since 2012, fielded Marouane Fellaini as his side's number 10, and whereas his impact was significant during qualifying, scoring four goals, his lack of technical ability stifled Belgium's attacking intent. 

Fellaini's physical presence failed to threaten a strong Italian defence, and Belgium lacked central playmakers, meaning the ball would always be passed out to the wings and would often get no further than there. 

Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard were both wasted on the wings, and their influence was limited as a result. De Bruyne, in particular, would have a much greater impact playing behind the striker, in between the lines. 

Wilmots eventually recognised Fellaini's ineffectiveness, replacing him with attacking midfielder Dries Mertens, but the change came too late for Belgium.

Belgium v Italy - Group E: UEFA Euro 2016

Belgium and Wilmots are also guilty of trying to fit all their stars into a system that doesn't best suit them or accommodate them. 

An area which best shows this is the back four.

Including Thomas Vermaelen, Toby Alderweireld and an out-of-position Jan Vertonghen at left-back, proves that Wilmots just wants all his best players on the pitch at the same time.  

No one will question the quality of those three defenders, but they have an alarming lack of pace, which was a weakness Italy successfully exploited. Time after time Italy's wing-backs got in behind the defence with subsequent ease, and Vertonghen was left screaming at his teammates far too often. 

Wilmots should introduce Jordan Lukaku into his defence in order to prevent the same scenario against the Republic of Ireland. Lukaku is a natural left-back with tonnes of pace and is more positionally aware than Vertonghen in that position.

Belgium v Italy - Group E: UEFA Euro 2016

Similarly, Belgium's central midfield pairing, as good as they have been this season at club level, are far too similar.

Against Italy Axel Witsel and Radja Nainggolan seemed to lack the defensive ability to successfully screen their defence, as Italy constantly fired balls down the centre of the pitch to Graziano Pelle, and lacked the energy to play the box-to-box role, running from deep to start attacks. 

Belgium's coaching team must realise the best players don't always make the best team. The Belgian midfield would benefit from a player who knows his role, who is in there either to defend or attack. Tough tackler Steven Defour, who represented Belgium in Rio, would be ideal for the role after having an impressive season with Anderlecht, however, he was overlooked by Wilmots.

Romelu Lukaku squandered yet another opportunity in a Belgium shirt. The centre-forward, rated at £65 million by his club Everton, appeared more as a pussy cat than the tiger he can be as he hardly got his foot on the ball against Italy's three central defenders. 

Belgium v Italy - Group E: UEFA Euro 2016

Lukaku's only chance came as a result of a Belgium counter attack, however, the 22-year-old blazed his first-time effort wide as he looked to chip the out rushing Gigi Buffon. 

With Divock Origi's pace causing greater threat after replacing Lukaku, it looks likely he will watch from the bench in his team's next match. Lukaku's inability to get involved in Belgium's build up play was another nail in the coffin which was their attacking play in their opening performance.

Should Marc Wilmots be making tactical changes ahead of Belgium's next game? Let us know YOUR thoughts in the comment section below!

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Topics:
Thomas Vermaelen
Jan Vertonghen
Euro 2016
Vincent Kompany
Football
Premier League
Eden Hazard
Romelu Lukaku

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