Belgium prepare for what fans hope will be a glorious summer of silverware with a friendly battle against 2004 European Champions Greece in Brussels on Thursday night.
While the Red Devils will be participating in Euro 2020, their midweek opponents failed to qualify for the second time running and will simply be looking ahead to the World Cup qualifiers later this year.
Despite unsurprising links with the vacant managerial posts at Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur, Roberto Martinez only has one goal in mind for the summer of 2020 – international success with Belgium.
For all of the talented players that have emerged through the Red Devils’ ranks in recent years, Belgium – the number-one ranked nation in the world – still do not have a major honour to show for their meteoric rise, but there is optimism that the delayed European Championship could represent a change in fortunes.
Three years on from securing third place at the World Cup in Russia, Belgium will endeavour to avoid another disappointing exit at the Euros, as Wales enjoyed one of the most famous nights in their history to dump the Red Devils out in the quarter-final stage in 2016.
Martinez’s side are of course expected to finish at the top of the pile in Group B with Denmark, Finland and Russia, and qualifying was simply a cakewalk for them, as Belgium were one of only two sides – the other being Italy – to win all of their games en route to the summer’s tournament.
The Red Devils also exacted revenge on Wales by beating them 3-1 in World Cup qualifying back in March, and a somewhat disappointing 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic preceded an 8-0 thrashing of Belarus in their most recent encounter, but it would take a near-perfect attacking performance for such an emphatic scoreline to be repeated on Thursday.
Despite managing to string together three wins on the bounce during the latter stages of their Euros qualifying campaign, the damage was done early on for Greece, who finished four points behind second-placed Finland in Group J after losing four of their opening seven games.
Failure to qualify for the 2016 Euros and 2018 World Cup also represents quite the fall from grace since Piratiko shocked the world by marching to the trophy at Euro 2004, but if their performances in 2020 were anything to go by, John van ‘t Schip is firmly steering Greece in the right direction.
Indeed, Greece navigated their 2020-21 Nations League campaign undefeated – although three draws prevented them from usurping Slovenia and earning promotion to League B – and they managed to hold Spain to a 1-1 draw in their first match of World Cup qualification.
A rather uninspiring 1-1 stalemate with Georgia followed that impressive result, but Van ‘t Schip’s side have now gone their last eight games unbeaten in all competitions, and there is no need for Piratiko to play with the handbrake on as they prepare for a second friendly with Norway this weekend.
However, Greece are winless in their last four meetings with Belgium – who claimed a 2-1 win when the sides last met in Qualifying for the 2018 World Cup – and Piratiko’s most recent triumph in this fixture came in a 2002 friendly by three goals to two.
Belgium International Friendlies form:
Belgium form (all competitions):
Greece International Friendlies form:
Greece form (all competitions):