Tactical Review: Belgium 2-1 Algeria
Marc Wilmots’ approach
Wilmots needed his side to take the initiative because the Algeria were always going to defend in numbers and make it difficult for his side.
The Belgium boss sent his team out to attack from virtually any possible source until they found a weak area. That meant that his wingers had to cut inside and support Romelu Lukaku, the full-backs had to push into the Algerian half and offer width, plus the central midfielders had the go ahead to supplement attacks, as well.
In central midfield, Wilmots opted for Mousa Dembele to complement Axel Witsel. Witsel was the more withdrawn of the two, with Dembele free to frequently push forward. Nacer Chadli still retains the manager’s faith as the first choice number 10, despite his underwhelming season at Tottenham.
Eden Hazard had to hold the width on the left flank while Kevin De Bruyne started on the right wing, cutting inside.
Vahid Halilhodzic approach
The Algeria boss had a defensive plan of containing the Red Devils though solid defending, with a lot of players behind the ball.
As for dealing with Hazard, Mehdi Mostefa had to shadow him while the rest of his team-mates needed to support the right-back in smothering the PFA young player of the tear. The message was simple: Hazard cannot be allowed time on the ball. The overall shape of the Desert Foxes was a 4-5-1 formation.
Offensively, Halilhodzic planned to start with a high tempo in the opening quarter of an hour and also exploit Belgium’s lack of quick full-backs. Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld are centre-backs comfortable on the flanks rather than specialist full-backs. They are only deployed because of the Red Devils’ deficiencies in those areas, so the Algerian manager targeted them.
Halilhodzic needed his wide midfielders, Riyad Mahrez and Sofiane Feghouli, to quickly get behind the Belgian full-backs during counter attacks. In central midfield, Carl Medjani sat just in front of the back four, while Nabil Bentaleb and Saphir Taider operated side-by-side. Up front, Soudani had to lead the line alone.
Key tactical changes
At half-time, the game was not going according to plan for Wilmots; his full-backs lacked the element of surprise, the team moved the ball slowly and Algeria worked hard to close down spaces in the final third. The Desert Foxes were so good that Belgium could do very little with the near two-thirds of possession they had.
Wilmots quickly made three changes in the early stage of the second-half: Dries Mertens, Marouane Fellaini and Divock Origi all came on.
The Red Devils changed to a 4-4-2 formation; De Bruyne dropped to central midfield alongside Witsel, Mertens had to cut in from the right flank, while Origi partnered Fellaini up front. That move added more presence in the box with the height of Fellaini as a target man and the movement of Origi as the supporting striker.
The Desert Foxes’ boss kept his team’s shape even when Belgium equalised, which proved that he was still content to settle for a point. He only replaced tired legs like Soudani, the lone striker, with Islam Slimani.
Halilhodzic had to open up to a 4-4-2 formation in the last 10 minutes of the game after Belgium took the lead.
Nabil Ghilas joined Slimani as the two Algeria strikers but the Desert Foxes did not have enough time or possession to overhaul the contest.