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Preview: Belgium v Republic of Ireland

Martin O'Neill says his Republic of Ireland side have two bites of the cherry at getting the three points he thinks they need, but warns that Belgium on a par with anyone at UEFA EURO 2016.

Martin O'Neill (L) and assistants Roy Keane and Steve Walford oversee training in Bordeaux
Martin O'Neill (L) and assistants Roy Keane and Steve Walford oversee training in Bordeaux ©Getty Images
  • Belgium look to recover from 2-0 loss to Italy while Ireland held Sweden 1-1
  • Red Devils have not lost to their Group E rivals in 50 years
  • Belgians have also never lost competitive game against Ireland (W2 D5)
  • Belgium beat Ireland 3-2 on aggregate in 1998 World Cup play-offs
  • Also in Group E: Italy v Sweden (played Friday)

Possible line-ups
Belgium: Courtois; Ciman, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Witsel, Naingolan; Hazard, De Bruyne, Mertens; Lukaku.
Yellow card away from suspension: Vertonghen

Republic of Ireland: Randolph; Coleman, O'Shea, Clark, Brady; Hendrick, Whelan, McCarthy, McClean, Hoolahan; Long.
Out: Walters (Achilles)
Yellow card away from suspension: McCarthy, Whelan

Marc Wilmots, Belgium coach
I'm expecting a tight match. The onus will be on us to take the game to them as we need the win. But we must be patient; we cannot afford to gift them too much space. They are a very dangerous team on the counterattack, so we need to be very mindful of that.

Marouane Fellaini reacts to Belgium's Italy loss
Marouane Fellaini reacts to Belgium's Italy loss©AFP/Getty Images

I have learned over the years, and also when I was a player, that if you make decisions too quickly you can often leave a lot of space open. And if you leave space, then you're asking for trouble. It will be a difficult game for us, but every game has been difficult for every team at these EUROs.

Martin O'Neill, Ireland manager
Belgium are individually as talented as any side playing in the competition, so naturally it'll be a difficult match for us. But it's one we should look forward to. We played strongly against Sweden, we probably should have won that game but didn't. We've got an opportunity now to go and show the same sort of attitude, same determination and ability, and hopefully give Belgium a tough game.

The way things are going, you're looking at trying to get four points on the board – I assume that four points would be enough to get through. So we've two bites of the cherry. We have to go and put everything into these two games and make sure we don't come back on the plane with any regrets.

Dries Mertens (R) is set to start
Dries Mertens (R) is set to start©AFP/Getty Images

Team reporters
Berend Scholten, Belgium (@UEFAcomBerendS)
Kevin De Bruyne was a welcome sight in training at the Stade de Bordeaux as he recovers from a hamstring injury. Wilmots is confident he will be fit but there are likely to be other changes. I expect Dries Mertens to start on the right wing with one of the holding midfielders, Radja Nainggolan, Axel Witsel or Marouane Fellaini, making way. It is win or bust for Belgium.

Paul Bryan, Ireland (@UEFAcomPaulB)
Having seen his side fail to hold a 1-0 lead against Sweden at the Stade de France on Monday, O'Neill knows Ireland must now try to win one of their remaining games in the section to increase their chances of the last 16. The Boys in Green have taken some significant scalps at major tournaments yet it will require a monumental collective effort to upset the odds in Bordeaux.

Form guide (all games, most recent first)

Did you know?
Belgium's record in 13 matches against Ireland is W5 D5 L3, but they are yet to lose in seven competitive encounters (W2 D5). They are also unbeaten in the last six meetings (W2 D4) since a 3-2 friendly defeat in Liege in May 1966. Find out more in our extensive match background.

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