One of Euro 2016’s surprise packages meets one of its more underwhelming outfits in this last-16 affair.
Few fancied Hungary to qualify from Group F, let alone top it, while Belgium’s insipid pool E campaign did little to vindicate the hype that followed their talented squad to France.
An Italian tactical masterclass led to a 2-0 defeat in De Rode Duivels’ opening match, which opened the floor to debates on issues ranging from individualism within the ranks, to whether coach Marc Wilmots’ is sufficiently qualified to steer an elite international ship.
Hungary, by contrast, have had no such questions to contend with. This may largely be down to the fact there was very little expected of them heading ahead of the competition and still isn’t going into the knockout phase, but nevertheless, they consummately overcame football hipster fancies Austria in their first match, held Iceland in the second and came desperately close to toppling Portugal in the third.
Fearless attacking brought them three goals versus the Seleccao, against whom they looked to take advantage of weaknesses, as opposed to neutralise rather prominent threats.
True, they were liberated from the shackles of caution that bind teams yet to book a place in the knockouts ahead of their meeting with the Portuguese having already qualified, but they demonstrated that their system is effective and that they know how to find the net.
Revisiting the blueprint will serve them well in the all-or-nothing environment against Belgium.
Win, Lose or Draw
As impressive as Hungary’s efforts in the final third against Portugal were, their defence was left to fend for itself and, having shipped three goals, it’s fair to say it didn’t do a very good job of it.
But the fact remains that across the tournament, they’ve afforded adversaries just 28 attempts at their goal: 21 were recorded in their most recent outing.
This stat, combined with their attacking showing last time out, suggests they’re as well versed in the art of stopping goals, as they are of scoring them.
Belgium gave up the same number of shots to opponents in their opening three matches. Even Sweden, whose only tournament goal came courtesy of Republic of Ireland’s Ciaran Clark, fashioned 12 chances when facing the nation ranked number two in the world.
Greece (who edged a 4-3 spectacular in qualifying for this competition) and Germany are the only countries to record a victory against the Hungarians since November 2014, a timeframe in which Wilmots’ charges have been defeated three times.
Robust and incisive in equal measures, Hungary are capable of making the evening an uncomfortable one for Belgium and are worth a bet not lose on the double-chance.
Recommended bet: Hungary win or draw double-chance @ 5/4
Having taken a battering from the under lovers, bookies have their guards up for the knockouts so don’t expect much of a return on any investments of this nature here.
With the contest poised to be a tight one, any bets on three goals and upwards are more likely to lose, but there’s ample mileage in backing fewer than 0.5 strikes before the break.
This duo has registered 12 goals between them so far, but only one of these occurred prior to the peeling of half-time oranges.
Recommended bet: Fewer than 0.5 first half goals @ 5/4
Who’s Going To Score?
Romelu Lukaku squandered several great chances in Belgium’s loss to Italy, but the Everton ace has been in lethal form either side of that fixture.
In the matches that followed their cancelled friendly with Spain he notched six in seven appearances and quite rightly deserves favouritism in the scoring stakes here.
Recommended bet: Lukaku to score any time @ 7/5
A tight contest is on the horizon, but Hungary have demonstrated a level of marksmanship that suggests they’ll get on the scoresheet here.
They’ve drawn just three blanks across their last 11 games, while Belgium have failed to break the deadlock once in 12.
Backing both teams to score pays at a surprisingly generous rate and must be taken advantage of.
Recommended bet: Both teams to score – Yes @ 8/5