What will Ireland have learned about Belgium after their Italy loss?

The Belgians have problems going forward

Belgium, Laurent Ciman, Thibaut Courtois

Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, right, and Belgium's Laurent Ciman stand after Italy's Emanuele Giaccherini scored during the Euro 2016 Group E soccer match between Belgium and Italy at the Grand Stade in Decines-Charpieu, near Lyon, France, Monday, June 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

If the FIFA World Rankings are essentially pointless, Belgium might be a case in point.

Undoubtedly brilliant individually, they didn't look like much of a team after last night's 2-0 Euro 2016 defeat to Italy.

And that is significant for Ireland, who face them next in Group E.

Having re-watched the match, many of Belgium's problems are clear even if they are favourites for Saturday's clash against the Boys in Green in Bordeaux.

No ideas

Despite the forward talent at their disposal against the Italians, Belgium lacked the ability to unlock what was and is arguably the best defence at Euro 2016.

Dominating possession, they seemed to constantly run out of ideas when camped around the Italian box.

Eden Hazard  on one wing and Kevin De Bruyne on the other are outstanding for their clubs but they like to cut inside constantly.

That played into Italy's hands as attacks were funnelled into a dead-end and when a way through could not be found, Hazard, Axel Witsel and Radja Nainggolan attempted shots from outside the box which mostly proved ineffective.

Belgium only seemed to threaten regularly on rare counter-attacking opportunities - the best way of unlocking Romelu Lukaku's ability given he is average as a hold-up target man - and the one or two times they were able to find Marouane Fellaini to play off.

They seem to lack a true playmaker in midfield to play incisive passes and from Ireland's point of view, driving the Red Devils wider is a good way to make life hard for them.

Full-back deficit

The problem of narrowness is exacerbated by the lack of support from full-backs.

Belgium do not have any top level left or right-backs who are naturals in the positions and last night's game saw Jan Vertonghen and Montreal Impact's Laurent Ciman in the roles.

Neither provided much quality going forward which means Ireland can probably get away with a diamond midfield formation again.  

 

Ireland game-plan

Packing the centre of the pitch and sitting deep defensively are two of Ireland best bets. On one hand, it reduces the space that Belgium want to exploit centrally and also means Lukaku is deprived of space.

A diamond formation allows for that and is not a weakness because Belgium's full-backs do not threaten much.