On Saturday, the Republic of Ireland and Belgium go head-to-head in a thrilling international friendly fixture at the Aviva Stadium. The hosts head into the game unbeaten in each of their last six games across all competitions and will look to keep this fine run going. In November, the home team were last in action against Luxembourg, recording a 3-0 victory in their final 2022 World Cup qualification match, while Belgium drew 1-1 with Wales in their last qualifier.
The Republic of Ireland won two and drew three of their final five World Cup qualification matches, but it was not enough to help them finish in the top two, with a record of nine points from eight games leaving them third, so Stephen Kenny’s side will not be present at this year’s competition.
The Boys in Green have actually failed to qualify for each of the last five World Cups, while they were also not present at Euro 2020, with their previous participation in a major tournament coming at Euro 2016.
The Republic of Ireland will bring a six-match unbeaten run into this contest, though, while they have lost just one of their last ten international matches, so there are certainly reasons to be positive.
Kenny’s team will take on Belgium and Lithuania in their two friendlies this month before returning to competitive action in the UEFA Nations League against Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Belgium finished top of Group E, claiming 20 points from eight games to secure an automatic ticket to Qatar later in the year.
The Red Devils enjoyed an unbeaten qualifying campaign, claiming six wins and two draws from eight games while scoring 25 goals and conceding just six. However, Belgium have failed to win any of their last two away games, claiming one draw and losing one, and will be seeking to end this dry spell.
Republic of Ireland: Republic of Ireland will be without Darragh Lenihan, who has been forced to withdraw from the squad through injury, while there are notable absentees in the shape of Jamie McGrath and Adam Idah. Callum Robinson, who has scored seven times for his country, is expected to lead the line, while Troy Parrott and Chiedozie Ogbene could also feature in the final third of the field.
Belgium: Belgium have named a youthful side for their upcoming friendly fixtures, leaving out the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku from the team.
Republic of Ireland vs Belgium Predicted XI
Republic of Ireland Predicted XI (3-4-3): Gavin Bazunu; Seamus Coleman, Shane Duffy, Josh Egan; Matt Doherty, Josh Cullen, Jeff Hendrick, James McClean; Troy Parrott, Callum Robinson, Chiedozie Ogbene
Belgium Predicted XI (3-4-3): Simon Mignolet; Dedryck Boyata, Arthur Theate, Jason Denayer; Alexis Saelemaekers, Hans Vanaken, Youri Tielemans, Thorgan Hazard; Jeremy Doku, Divock Origi, Leandro Trossard