13 June – Italy (8pm GMT Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon)
The Belgian Red Devils are travelling to France as one of the favourites to win Euro 2016, a unique status in their history, writes Vincent Van Genechten.
Belgian football is alive and kicking. With the disembowelling of their ‘golden generation’, the Red Devils rocketed to the top spot on the FIFA rankings. A solid World Cup run in 2014, where they were eliminated by Argentina (1-0) in the quarter-finals, has only boosted their confidence towards Euro 2016.
Preferred XI: Courtois; Alderweireld, Denayer, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Nainggolan, Witsel; Carrasco, De Bruyne, Hazard; Romelu Lukaku
Jason Denayer is expected to replace the injured Vincent Kompany at centre-back. Belgium thrive on their defensive organisation and offensive creativity, playing three playmakers behind one target striker.
Coach: Marc Wilmots - The 47-year-old was nicknamed "Das Kampfschwein" (The Warpig). Wilmots is Belgium’s all-time leading scorer at World Cups with five goals and became their coach in 2012.
Look out for: Belgium’s playmakers. The Red Devils deploy a couple of star playmakers, with Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Yannick Carrasco expecting to start. This makes Belgium a very creative team.
Did you know?
…Italy P 21 W 4 D 4 L 13 F 24 A 41
…Republic of Ireland P 14 W 5 D 5 L 4 F 25 A24
…Sweden P14 W 7 D 2 L 5 F 22 A 30
Nickname: De Rode Duivels (The Red Devils)
Calcio fans might remember… Radja Nainggolan Roma (2014-present)
Top Division: Jupiler Pro League
FIFA World Ranking: 2
International honours: None
Most capped player: Jan Ceulemans (96)
Leading international scorer: Paul Van Himst, Bernard Voorhoof (30)
Belgium at the European Championships:
1960 – Did not enter
1964 – Did not qualify
1968 – Did not qualify
1972 – Third place
1976 – Did not qualify
1980 – Runners-up
1984 – Group stage
1988 – Did not qualify
1992 – Did not qualify
1996 – Did not qualify
2000 – Group stage
2004 – Did not qualify
2008 – Did not qualify
2012 – Did not qualify
How they got to Euro 2016: Belgium won Group B during the qualification campaign with 23 points. They drew 1-1 against Bosnia and Herzegovina early on, before only losing points to Wales along the way, drawing 0-0 at home and losing 1-0 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. The other teams in the group were Israel, Cyprus, and Andorra.