Italy thrashed Belgium 2-0 on Monday in a match that showed the difference between a well-drilled and well-organised team and one consisting of individuals. Marc Wilmots chose to go with more muscle in midfield, and it didn’t work. Kevin De Bruyne is one of the best playmakers in Europe, but for this game, Wilmots instead went with a midfield of Alex Witsel, Radja Nainggolan and Marouane Fellaini. Fellaini’s selection meant that De Bruyne was lost out on the wing.
Wilmots has also got to find a way of getting De Bruyne and Eden Hazard to play well together. Apart from the well-documented problems in the back four (namely, no international class full-backs), Wilmots must find a striker who can perform in the big games. Neither Romelu Lukaku nor Christian Benteke fit the bill there. After going behind, Wilmots tried to change things with a series of second-half substitutions, but it was too little, too late. Up front, Lukaku looked outclassed as he missed what seemed like their best chance all night after a wonderful counter attack, but his replacement, Divock Origi, missed several good chances also.
Overall, it was a night to forget for Belgium as they played like they were more concerned about individual glory rather than a team win. For the Ireland game, Wilmots must give De Bruyne full responsibility in central midfield and replace Lukaku, either with Origi or Michy Batshuayi. With Fellaini out, Wilmots can bring in Dries Mertens (good when he came on) or Yannick Carrasco.