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Belgium and Ireland teed up for tight game

Belgium are yet to lose a competitive game against the Republic of Ireland, but the number of recent draws between the sides suggests a tight Group E encounter.

Background: Belgium v Republic of Ireland ©Getty Images

Belgium have not lost to the Republic of Ireland in 50 years, but as they meet for a 14th time, the Red Devils know that victory in UEFA EURO 2016 Group E is far from certain.

Previous meetings
• Belgium's record in 13 games against Ireland is W5 D5 L3, but they are yet to lose in seven competitive encounters (W2 D5). They are unbeaten in six matches against Ireland (W2 D4) since a 3-2 friendly defeat in Liege in May 1966.

• Contests between these countries have traditionally been tight, with four of the last six fixtures drawn and Belgium winning the other two by a one-goal margin.

• Two of those draws – 2-2 in Brussels, 0-0 in Dublin – came in qualifying for the 1988 UEFA European Championship as Ireland reached the finals for the first time. There have been no subsequent meetings in this competition.

• The most recent games took place in November 1997 as Belgium overcame Ireland 3-2 on aggregate in a play-off for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Luc Nilis scored in both legs for the Red Devils. Current Belgium coach Marc Wilmots played in the Dublin leg of that tie – a 1-1 draw – while his assistant Vital Borkelmans came on as a substitute in the return.

Belgium's EURO star: Kevin De Bruyne
Belgium's EURO star: Kevin De Bruyne

EURO facts – Belgium
• This is Belgium's first UEFA European Championship final tournament since they co-hosted UEFA EURO 2000 with the Netherlands, and their fifth EURO in total.

• The Red Devils' biggest achievement to date is reaching the final of the 1980 EURO, where they lost 2-1 to West Germany in Rome.

• Belgium's only previous game in Bordeaux was a 2-2 draw against Mexico at the 1998 World Cup. Wilmots put them 2-0 ahead, but the North American team levelled in the second half, ending the Red Devils' campaign in the group stage.

• Belgian clubs have played six UEFA games in Bordeaux, with the record W1 D1 L4. Most recently, Club Brugge lost 4-0 to Bordeaux in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League group stage.

O'Neill on 'tough' Ireland draw
O'Neill on 'tough' Ireland draw

EURO facts – Republic of Ireland
• The Irish are competing at their third EURO finals but have yet to make it through the group stage. They lost all three of their games at UEFA EURO 2012.

• Ireland's biggest achievement came at the 1990 World Cup, where they reached the quarter-finals.

• The two Irish clubs to have played UEFA fixtures in Bordeaux suffered heavy defeats. Waterford United lost 4-0 to Bordeaux in the 1986/87 European Cup Winners' Cup first round and Bohemians went down 5-0 at the same stage of the 1993/94 UEFA Cup.

Coach and player links
• Play together:
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) & Seamus Coleman, Darron Gibson, James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady, (Ireland) – Everton

• Have played together:
Christian Benteke (Belgium) & Ciaran Clark and Shay Given (Ireland) – Aston Villa, 2012–15

Marouane Fellaini (Belgium) and Seamus Coleman (Ireland) – Everton, 2008–13

Simon Mignolet (Belgium) & James McClean and David Meyler (Ireland) – Sunderland, 2011/12

Simon Mignolet (Belgium) and John O'Shea (Ireland) – Sunderland, 2012

• Belgium goalkeeper Mignolet played under Ireland manager Martin O'Neill at Sunderland from 2011–13.

• O'Shea (2001) played in Belgium while on loan from Manchester United FC at Royal Antwerp.