Who are the outsiders at EURO 2020
After a year-long wait, it's finally time for the EURO 2020. As always a lot of people will try to predict the outcomes of the matches and ultimately predict who is gonna win it. But who are the outsiders to win it this year? Will it be Italy, England, or Belgium that is going to surprise us all during the tournament.
This will be the second of the three long-reads in total, where we are going to take a look at the outsider for the European Championship and that we expect to perform this year. In our first long-read, we talked about Italy and now we will take a look at Belgium.
Belgium sailed through the qualification for the Euros, with 40 goals and only conceding three while getting a perfect 10 wins out of 10 games. Belgium doesn't have the best track record when it comes to big tournaments however they have improved a lot in recent years. They reached the quarter-finals at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championship. During the 2018 World Cup, they managed to get third place beating England in the loser final. According to data from Hypercube they have a 13.9% chance of winning the tournament, coming in second place behind France.
Will Belgium go the distance again this tournament? We will take a look at the entire squad and see how they are likely to play during the Euros. We look forward to seeing what Belgium has to offer during the tournament.
Belgium plays in a 3-4-2-1 formation and usually, they play with Vertonghen, Denayer, and Alderweireld as their defensive back three. A contender for the spot is Vermaelen, with the highest successful defensive actions per 90 minutes at 9.6 and winning 65.22% of his aerial duels. However, Vermaelen did this in the Japanese league, where the overall level is much lower than in Europe, so we don't expect him to start for Belgium, but he might come on as a substitute when needed.
If we look at the full-backs it is a little more interesting. Depending on the opponent they can play a little more defensive or attacking with their options. Castagne is one of the most versatile players, with the ability to play on either side of the pitch, he also had a fantastic season at Leicester and this shows in his stats. Castagne had 8.94 successful defensive actions and won 71.37% of his defensive duels. He will be a great option when Belgium is in need of a more defensive back-line.
When Belgium plays against a weaker opponent where they can be more attacking, we will probably see Meunier and T. Hazard at the wing-back positions.
Belgium plays with two defense midfielders just above their defense to keep the defensive balance within the team. In the last few matches, we have seen a constant pairing of Tielemans with Dendoncker, with Praet also making an appearance. Dendocker is the most defensive option, with Tielemans being the link between the defense and the attacking three of Belgium.
The scatterplot below perfectly displays the different types of players that Belgium currently has. On the left side, we see Witsel and Dendoncker with a lot of recoveries and a low number of losses. This indicates that they are the most defensive options within the squad and keeping the defensive balance on the midfield. Witsel will be looking to make his reappearance at the Euros after getting injured back in January, we expect him to come on as a substitute for Dendoncker.
In the middle, we see two central midfielders who play more box-to-box and being the link between the attack and defense. They lose the ball more often, but in return, they are also more defensive and have a decent amount of recoveries as well.
On the right side of the scatterplot, we see the most attacking midfielders in Vanaken and De Bruyne. On the left side of the pitch, Vanaken will have to compete with Carrasco, Thorgan Hazard, and Eden Hazard with the latter just returning from a long injury.
Losses vs recoveries
Romelu Lukaku is the main striker of the squad and he has by far scored the most goals last season. His expected goals per 90 minutes is 0.7 with Benteke coming in behind him at 0.54.
On the wings, Belgium has a lot of options at its disposal. Belgium doesn't play with wide wingers, but with they play just above the midfield and closer to the striker of the team. In the last few matches, they switched between Mertens, Carrasco, and De Bruyne. After his injury during the Champions League final, De Bruyne will most likely have to sit out Belgium's first game. When he is back we expect to see him on the right side behind Lukaku, as he is by far the best player on the team atm.
We are also curious to see if Eden Hazard will make his appearance at the Euros, he has finally recovered from his injury and seems fit to play. We don't expect him to start in the early stages of the tournament as Belgium also has excellent replacements on the left side with Carrasco and Mertens, but we could see Hazard come on as a sub.