Belgium vs Slovakia Preview | Euro 2024 Picks

Belgium vs Slovakia Preview | Euro 2024 Picks article feature image
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(Photo by Joris Verwijst/BSR Agency/Getty Images) Pictured: Romelu Lukaku.

Belgium vs Slovakia Odds

Monday, June 17
12 p.m. ET
FOX
Belgium Odds-209
Slovakia Odds+600
Draw+333
Over / Under
2.5
 -125o / +100u
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

Group E favorites Belgium will kick off their tournament on Monday against a Slovakia team that is considered one of the longest shots to reach the 16-team knockout phase.

Belgium cruised to the top of Group F despite a draw that included formidable foes in Sweden and Austria. And while their true "Golden Generation" may now be in the past, they still carry plenty of familiar faces and talent capable of making the plays needed to make deep tournament run.

Slovakia finished second in Group J behind Portugal in its successful bid to qualify for a third consecutive European Championships. They finished third in their group in their previous two appearances — reaching the knockout phase in 2016 — but are oddsmakers' most distant choice to win the group this time around.

Incidentally, both sides are managed by Italians who are relatively new to their jobs. Domenico Tedesco took over Belgium following Roberto Martínez's six-year reign that ended ignominiously in elimination in the 2022 World Cup group stage. Former Napoli assistant — and brief caretaker manager — Francesco Calzona assumed the reigns of Slovakia in August 2022 after their failed World Cup qualifying effort.


Belgium

While Tedesco is Italian by heritage, he is also from the family of managers to develop within the Red Bull Football Group high-press philosophy. And perhaps that shows in Belgium's qualifying results.

Particularly, the Red Devils fared better against their higher-quality opponents when playing as an away side, scoring three goals each in victories at Austria and Sweden. At home against both opponents where they shouldered the burden of creating the game, they were limited to ball-dominant draws.

And while Tedesco is tasked with ushering in a generational change, several familiar faces are still in starring roles, led by Romelu Lukaku, who despite decline at club level continues to be one of the game's best forwards in international play.

The 31-year-old scored 14 of the Red Devils' 23 goals in qualifying, with only one from the penalty spot. Most of that came despite not having Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne as a provider.

The soon-to-be 33-year-old De Bruyne appeared only once in the qualifying campaign as he grappled with injuries that also limited him in club play. But he started and resumed his captaincy in Belgium's two June friendlies in preparation for the tournament.


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Slovakia

Slovakia scored its share of goals during its qualifying campaign, but conventional wisdom suggests it will need to keep matches lower scoring to be successful in the tournament proper.

Calzona doesn't have the kind of attacker at his disposal capable of producing something special when the team isn't collectively generating chances.

The closest may be Lukáš Haraslín, a second-striker type who is coming off a career season with 12 goals and five assists in the league for Sparta Prague. But he's not even a guaranteed starter, having scored three times in five qualifying appearances.

On the other end, Martin Dúbravka again assumes No. 1 goalkeeping duties despite the 35-year-old serving as a backup at Newcastle. Paris St. Germain center back Martin Škriniar is Slovakia's most elite player.


Belgium vs Slovakia

Prediction

Don't overthink this one.

Lukaku's track record still plays internationally, where he not only scored often in qualifying but also spread his goals across all but one of his eight appearances. He also scored in every match against Austria and Sweden, the second- and third-place finishers in Belgium's group, so it's not just about running up the numbers against the minnows.

If anything, he should benefit from the return of De Bruyne and the elite service he provides. At just better than even money to score anytime and an implied 48.8% probability, he's the play here — and probably still represents value at other books where he's priced at -120 to -130.

I also like a live bet on a higher team total if Belgium scores first or a lower overall one if Slovakia finds a way in front.

Pick: Romelu Lukaku Anytime Goalscorer (+105, Bet365)

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