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Wilmots’ Belgium dripping with value to reach World Cup final

| 03.07.2014

Beat Argentina, and then probably Holland, it’s that simple. That’s the task facing Belgium if they are to qualify for their first ever World Cup final.

Admittedly, on the surface this sounds like a fairly insurmountable challenge for Marc Wilmots’ talented troop, especially given European teams have generally fared badly in the Americas.

However, scratch this conundrum’s surface and Belgium’s 7/2 odds to reach the World Cup’s showpiece in Rio de Janeiro become pretty darn attractive.

Firstly they must knock out second-favourites Argentina, something which isn’t actually as ominous as it sounds given the way La Albiceleste have scrambled their way to this point.

Over-reliance on Lionel Messi to save their skin has been Alejandro Sabella’s side’s main trait in Brazil, as Argentina’s many star names have done little to resemble a cohesive unit.

This is something Belgium, replete with a vast hoard of Premier League players have done much better after a shaky start, and had USA keeper Tim Howard not been in ridiculous shot-stopping form the Devils would have qualified in style for the last eight.

With Messi off-colour against a resistant Swiss side in the last 16, Argentina couldn’t even rely on their maestro to score the winner and after 118 minutes of toil Angel Di Maria finally came to the rescue.

Meanwhile, the whirlwind that was Holland’s amazing start against Spain had petered out to more of a gentle breeze by the time they faced Mexico.

The Dutch were strangely quiet (maybe the stifling heat) and were facing World Cup extinction with two minutes to go until a dramatic twist.

Given the way Louis van Gaal’s side operate with three central defenders, Belgium’s attacking wide men such as Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne – their best player of the World Cup so far – could revel in the extra space.

The Belgians have also beaten their Flemish neighbours in their last two meetings –winning 4-2 in a 2012 friendly.

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Christian Crowther

Give Christian a sport with anything remotely spherical in it and he’ll happily while away the hours watching it on the box. However, he’d much prefer writing about, playing or betting on golf, football, cricket, tennis, snooker.... you get the picture.