Thierry Henry has denied putting himself forward to replace Roberto Martinez as Belgium head coach.

Martinez's reign came to an end after the Red Devils' World Cup failure in Qatar and the Spaniard was on Monday appointed as Portugal boss.

Henry was Martinez's assistant and it has been reported that the France legend contacted the Royal Belgian Football Association expressing his desire to take the top job.

However, the 45-year-old says that is not the case.

He told Sky Sports News: "I would like to make it abundantly clear that contrary to written reports, I have never contacted the Belgian FA offering my services as the new first team coach.

"I think it's vital that the truthful version of facts is always presented."

Belgium's all-time leading goalscorer Romelu Lukaku this month confidently stated that Henry will succeed Martinez.

"For me, Henry is the next coach of Belgium. There are no doubts. I say it openly: he will be the next coach," Lukaku told Italian broadcaster Sky Sport.

"He has the respect of all the players, he has won everything. He knows how to coach, he knows what we have to do to get there.

"He knows the team, the league, the staff. For me, he is the ideal coach for our national team. Then I don't know who they will take. But I don't think Belgium should start from scratch.

"So far this generation hasn't won, but we have to keep trying to win. He wants to win, and I don't think the federation is going to get a coach who wants to change everything and start from scratch. It's not worth it to me."

 

Portugal have appointed Roberto Martinez as their new head coach.

Fernando Santos called time on his eight-year stint at the helm last month, a decision which followed Portugal's surprise World Cup defeat to Morocco.

Santos led Portugal to the quarter-finals in Qatar, where he benched Cristiano Ronaldo for the Selecao's two knockout games – a comprehensive 6-1 win over Switzerland and the 1-0 loss to the Atlas Lions.

Martinez, who was presented as Portugal's new coach on Monday and has reportedly signed a four-year deal, became a free agent shortly before Santos' exit, leaving his role as Belgium coach after the Red Devils slumped to a dismal group-stage exit in Qatar.

Former Wigan Athletic and Everton boss Martinez led Belgium to their best World Cup campaign when they clinched third place at Russia 2018, though his failure to deliver silverware with a crop of players said to be the country's "golden generation" has attracted criticism.

Martinez oversaw 61 games during his six-year spell in charge of Belgium, winning 47 (77 per cent).

Belgium beat Canada in their opening match in Qatar but a defeat to Morocco and draw with Croatia saw them slump eliminated from a World Cup group for the first time since 1998.

They entered the World Cup second in FIFA's world rankings, but dropped to fourth after their failure to reach the knockout round.

Upon taking the job, one of Martinez's foremost challenges will be to make a decision on the international future of Ronaldo, who has joined Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia following the termination of his contract with Manchester United.

Though Ronaldo recognised his "most ambitious dream" was over after failing to inspire Portugal to glory at his fifth World Cup, the 37-year-old is yet to retire from international football.

Portugal will begin their qualification campaign for Euro 2024 at home to Liechtenstein on March 23, having been drawn into a group also containing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Slovakia and Luxembourg.

Jamaican footballer Tarick Ximines has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Belgian Pro League club Cercle Brugge K.S.V, the club made the announcement via social media on Wednesday.

Ximines, 18, played a vital role in Jamaica College’s success in the recently-concluded schoolboy football season which saw them win the Manning Cup and Champions Cup double.

He also played for two Jamaica Premier League teams Harbour View and Mount Pleasant, scoring one goal in 16 games for the former and one goal in five appearances for the latter.

Ximines has also made two appearances for the Reggae Boyz and became the youngest ever Reggae Boy to feature for the senior team in a Concacaf World Cup Qualifier at 17 years and 5 months when he made his debut against Canada at the BMO Field on March 27.

Thierry Henry should be the man to replace Roberto Martinez as Belgium head coach, according to striker Romelu Lukaku.

Belgium are seeking a new boss after Martinez stood down following a galling group-stage exit from the World Cup, having spent six years and four months in the role.

Former Arsenal, Barcelona and France striker Henry joined him as assistant for two stints, either side of spells in charge of Monaco and Montreal Impact.

If Belgium are seeking a clean break from the Martinez era, then Henry would not be an option, but Red Devils record goalscorer Lukaku believes there should be continuity.

Inter frontman Lukaku also says his country's so-called 'golden generation' deserve another chance to deliver on the big stage, although Eden Hazard has already retired from international football.

"For me, Henry is the next coach of Belgium. There are no doubts. I say it openly: he will be the next coach," Lukaku told Italian broadcaster Sky Sport.

"He has the respect of all the players, he has won everything. He knows how to coach, he knows what we have to do to get there.

"He knows the team, the league, the staff. For me, he is the ideal coach for our national team. Then I don't know who they will take. But I don't think Belgium should start from scratch.

"So far this generation hasn't won, but we have to keep trying to win. He wants to win, and I don't think the federation is going to get a coach who wants to change everything and start from scratch. It's not worth it to me."

Lukaku's comments may prove awkward if another coach is picked to lead Belgium.

Belgium struggled to beat Canada in their opening World Cup game before suffering a 2-0 defeat against Morocco, with their exit confirmed by a goalless stalemate with Croatia.

The Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) has said it will look to hire "a serial winner with an experience in managing top players".

Belgium have slipped from second to fourth in the latest FIFA rankings after their dismal performance in Qatar, where they failed to reach the knockout stage for the first time since the 1998 finals in France.

The RBFA said, in advertising for Martinez's successor, that it was looking for applications to arrive by January 10.

Belgium have been drawn alongside Austria, Sweden, Azerbaijan and Estonia in the qualification process for Euro 2024, with the first round of games coming up in March.

Former Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez told his players he would be leaving after the World Cup following their shock defeat by Morocco - a result he admits "will haunt for me a long time".

Semi-finalists in 2018, the world's second-ranked side suffered a surprise group-stage elimination in Qatar after finishing third in Group F.

The Red Devils struggled past Canada in their opening game before suffering a 2-0 defeat against Morocco, while their premature exit was confirmed by a goalless stalemate with Croatia.

It brought the curtain down on a poor tournament that also saw Martinez and several players forced to dismiss reports of a rift within the squad.

The Spaniard, who subsequently stepped down after six years in the role, also denied rumours of any friction within the camp in his first interview since departing.

"It's the match against Morocco that will haunt me for a long time," he said. "We weren't ourselves. A bit like against Canada by the way. We were not in the state to win these games.

"Against Croatia, it was different. We are probably the team that created the most chances against the Croatians. You won't find any tactical or technical expert who can explain to you why we didn't score in the last half hour. A matter of millimetres.

"I told the group after the defeat against Morocco that I would stop after the World Cup in Qatar. 

"In a way, everyone knew that the match against Croatia could be the last. I would have liked to say goodbye on December 19 [the day after the final].

"Fake news has grown in importance. When L'Equipe writes that Jan Vertonghen and Eden Hazard had fallen out, the group had the impression that all the media were jumping on the information.

"So, we decided to distance ourselves from the outside world. The core wanted to show that the group is solid. And from that moment on, you saw another team. It made us stronger. How many percent of what L'Equipe said was true? Zero, nothing, nada."

Martinez felt Belgium's lack of preparation was also a factor in their poor performance in Qatar, with a 2-1 defeat against Egypt representing the only friendly the Red Devils played before the tournament commenced.

But the 49-year-old has fond memories of their run to the semi-finals in Russia four years earlier, including the homecoming parade in Brussels.

"In 2018, we had three warm-up matches. Not this time," Martinez added. 

"Several countries used this group stage as preparation. That was the price to pay for a tournament in the winter. Unfortunately, we needed two games to be ready.

"In 2018, I already felt at the airport [before the finals] that the team was ready - emotionally and tactically.

"Here, I only felt that two days before the game against Croatia. After the match against Egypt, I felt that we were not ready. Nothing was rolling for us.

"On the Grand Place in Brussels. I cherish that image from 2018 for life, it is burned on my retina. It will encourage me to keep working in football."

Argentina's World Cup triumph has moved them up to second in FIFA's world rankings, but Lionel Messi's Golden Ball-winning exploits were not enough for top spot.

La Albiceleste defeated France on penalties in a thrilling final that ended 3-3 after extra time at Qatar 2022, ending their 36-year wait for the sport's biggest prize.

But despite it proving fifth time lucky for talisman Messi, it is Argentina's closest rivals Brazil who top the world rankings at the end of the year.

The Selecao were knocked out in the quarter-finals following a penalty shoot-out loss to Croatia, but Tite's side hold on to their place at the summit.

It ends a run of four consecutive years when Belgium have ended the calendar year as the world's top-ranked nation in men's international football, with the Red Devils dropping to fourth.

Their descent allows France to move a place up the ladder, to sit third behind Argentina, while England round out the top five in an unchanged position.

A shock loss to Morocco sees Spain slip down the list to 10th, with the African nation in 11th, while Croatia enjoy a major bump to go seventh at Denmark's expense.

Indeed, Denmark suffer one of the biggest drops, down to 18th, with the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal rounding out the rest of the upper echelons.

Other countries enduring slides down the rankings after poor World Cups include Germany, Uruguay and Wales, but there are boosts for Japan, Australia and Cameroon after impressive performances.

Eden Hazard has announced his retirement from international football in the wake of Belgium's disappointing performance at the World Cup.

The Red Devils were underwhelming in an opening 1-0 win over Canada but defeat to Morocco and a draw with Croatia saw them exit Group F.

Head coach Roberto Martinez, who four years previously had led Belgium to the semi-finals in Russia, confirmed his departure after that game.

Real Madrid winger Hazard has now also called time on his spell with the national team, announcing his decision on Instagram.

"A page turns today… Thank you for your love. Thank you for your unparalleled support," he wrote.

"Thank you for all this happiness shared since 2008. I have decided to put an end to my international career. The succession is ready. I will miss you."

Hazard was part of a team dubbed Belgium's 'Golden Generation' alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois.

The former Chelsea star racked up 126 caps for his country and scored 33 goals, making his debut as a substitute against Luxembourg back in 2008.

His first experience of an international tournament came at the 2014 World Cup where Belgium made the quarter-finals, and he skippered his country at Euro 2016 in the absence of Vincent Kompany where they again lost in the last eight – this time to Wales.

A 1-0 defeat to eventual champions France curtailed their run in Russia four years ago and more quarter-final pain was in store at the hands of Italy at last year's rescheduled Euro 2020.

Belgium's campaign in Qatar was beset by rumours of rifts in the camp, with Hazard himself suggesting the team's best chance of success was in 2018 – a suggestion echoed by De Bruyne, who said the age of the squad was too old to compete.

Thibaut Courtois says Belgium's current crop of players should not be considered the country's "golden generation" after their dire World Cup campaign in Qatar.

Belgium finished third at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 despite a series of underwhelming displays, leading to hopes of a renewed World Cup bid this year.

However, the world's number-two ranked side suffered a humiliating group-stage exit after following up a 1-0 win over Canada with a defeat to Morocco and a goalless draw with Croatia. 

The Red Devils' current squad – which includes a series of household names including Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard – has often been described as Belgium's "golden generation", but Courtois says that depiction is inaccurate.

"It's a little shameful they called us the golden generation of Belgium when we didn't win anything," Courtois told ESPN.

"We are not a golden generation; we are a generation that had a lot of talent and great players in several European clubs.

"In Russia, in 2018, we showed that we were a Belgium that played good football. In this World Cup and in the Euro [2020] we were not ourselves."

Courtois, a veteran of three World Cup campaigns, will be 34 when the next edition of the tournament begins, but he has no intention of calling time on his international career before then.

"We'll see what will happen, who will stay, who will end their career. I want to play in this [next] World Cup, yes," Courtois said.

"We still have good players and others will arrive. When they finish their career in the national team, it will be in a good phase, not like this."

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal joked that his wife would have to make the final call on his next destination, as he did not rule out taking over as Belgium's boss.

Van Gaal will leave his role in charge of the Oranje after their World Cup campaign comes to an end in Qatar.

The United States are the Netherlands' opponents in the last 16 on Saturday.

One team that has not progressed from the group stage is Belgium, with the world's second-best side - according to the FIFA rankings - finishing third in Group F after Thursday's goalless draw with Croatia.

Roberto Martinez confirmed after the match that his six-year tenure as Belgium coach was coming to an end and on Friday it was put to Van Gaal that the Red Devils could be his next job.

"Belgium is a really friendly country with really friendly people, and Knokke-Hesti is a lovely beach town," Van Gaal said with a smile.

"It is surprising [Belgium are out]. There's players in the squad that are really marvellous, when you look at them individually. But it's all about the team.

"I was never at their training sessions, I don’t see every match. I saw the last match – they should have won and they would have qualified."

Asked if he would consider the move, Van Gaal quipped: "You've got to convince my wife!

"Joking aside, no. I'm always at liberty to take decisions myself but there are certain countries I would not move to and my wife wouldn't – simple as that.

"I am here with the Dutch team, we want to be world champion, and then we'll see if there's any offers on the table.

"I have said, if we become world champions, football is so opportunistic that I know there will be offers, I know that full well, but at the moment we are not world champion and if I believe the Dutch media, we will never be world champions!"

Van Gaal's immediate task is to guide the Netherlands into the last eight, where they would meet either Argentina or Australia, but he is far from underestimating the USA.

"All I can say is what I have seen. I was never present at training or meetings, or when he prepared his players," he said.

"What I've observed is a vision, what I see is a team that is keen to execute that vision, which is of the utmost importance, and I see the conviction of the players.

"That must be fantastic for a coach. It's how I feel about my group. I've conveyed that message for a year and a half because I don't think I've ever had a group like this one.

"You see it on the pitch, but I'm apparently only one in the Netherlands who sees that – it's probably me!"

Zlatko Dalic was sorry to see Belgium lose a "great coach" in Roberto Martinez as his departure was confirmed with Thursday's World Cup exit.

Dalic's Croatia held Belgium to a goalless draw at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, following Morocco through to the last 16 in Group F.

Martinez, who was out of contract after six years as Red Devils coach, announced he would be leaving his role in his post-match news conference.

"I think Belgium have lost a great coach," said Dalic. "I'm sorry he resigned."

Discussing his own future, the Croatia boss added: "My project is Euro 2024 and the Nations League Finals. When I finish these projects, then I'll think about how to proceed."

Although the 2018 finalists themselves missed out on topping the group, Dalic hailed the performance of his team.

"It would be selfish for me to single out individuals," he said. "They all gave everything of themselves."

Full-backs Josip Juranovic and Borna Sosa were more open to picking out individuals, each lauding 37-year-old player of the match Luka Modric.

Asked if the Real Madrid man was still one of the world's best, Juranovic replied: "Yes – [that answer] is short enough. He is the best midfielder ever."

Sosa added: "Of course, it's easy [to play with Modric]. The better players you have in your team, the easier it is to play.

"With Luka, one of the best players in the history of the sport, it is very easy."

Departing Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez revealed his "huge disappointment" after the Red Devils crashed out of the World Cup.

The world's second-ranked side suffered a surprise elimination in Qatar after finishing third in Group F following a goalless draw with Croatia.

It brought the curtain down on a poor tournament for 2018 semi-finalists Belgium, who struggled past Canada in their opening game before suffering a shock defeat by eventual group winners Morocco.

The Croatia stalemate also spelt the end for Martinez, who confirmed his departure as Belgium head coach after six years in the role.

"We were ourselves today," he reflected. "We had very good performances and frustrated Croatia in the first half, but couldn't take chances in the second half.

"We got in very good positions, but didn't execute them well. Second half, we looked strong and probably created more clear-cut chances than in 2018.

"We showed heart, and we saw a group that really cares, which we missed in previous two games - we weren't ourselves [in the first two games].

"Due to quality and experience, we won the first game [against Canada], but we were not ourselves. Today was completely different.

"Morocco was disappointing, and we're out of the World Cup because margins are small - there's no margin for error. Morocco took their chances and Croatia now rightly progress through. It's a huge disappointment for us."

Martinez also explained his reasons for Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard, who was only introduced in the 87th minute at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, starting Belgium's must-win showdown on the bench.

It came after a tumultuous week, in which he dismissed reports of a rift within the camp as "fake news" at his pre-match news conference.

"Lukaku couldn't play the 90. We saw in the second half, he lacked physicality," Martinez said. 

"We used him where there were bigger gaps and got him in the box. He moved well and got in good positions, but missed chances.

"I'm happy with the way we planned for this game. The players that started gave us what we wanted, and then we could have scored three goals in second half, and it would have been a different story.

"We were here for seven games and couldn't take a risk on players, it would not have been responsible to play [Lukaku] from the start, same with Eden Hazard."

Much of the discussion surrounding Belgium's underwhelming campaign in Qatar has focused on the ageing of a so-called 'golden generation' of players, with Kevin De Bruyne stating the Red Devils' squad was "too old" ahead of the finals.

Defender Toby Alderweireld insisted the senior players within the squad are yet to make a decision on their futures.

"I think as a team, you have to take the responsibility," he added. "I think we played a very good game. We could have won.

"I think we lost the qualification in the last game against Morocco. If we didn't lose this game, it was a total different game. This is the reality. It hurts.

"It's not every year that there's a tournament. We'll see what everyone is doing, but I think it's too close to the last game to decide.

"Everyone goes home now, goes to their club and decides what they're going to do. This hurts, it's normal, but decisions are not made after the game."

Roberto Martinez confirmed he has taken charge of Belgium for the final time following their World Cup exit, but he does not believe this is the end for the country's 'golden generation'.

Belgium finished third in Group F after toiling to a 0-0 draw with second-placed Croatia at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Thursday, ensuring they failed to qualify from a World Cup group for the first time since 1998.

Martinez – who led Belgium to their best World Cup finish when they claimed bronze in Russia four years ago – was under contract until the end of the tournament, and has revealed he planned to walk away however the Red Devils fared.

"That was my last game for the national team and it was emotional. I can't carry on, sorry," a visibly moved Martinez said at his post-match press conference.

"This was the end, whether we won or went out in the group. It has nothing to do with being eliminated at this stage.

"I'm someone who likes to build things. For six years, I've been here with the objective to reach the World Cup and win it. We won the bronze medal in 2018 and gave it another go. It's been a real joy. 

"We've built a legacy. I know people will see it a different way, but I'm so proud. Looking at the dressing room now, we have youngsters who can now be starters. 

"It's been six amazing years that we've been able to do everything you want to do with a club at a national team. 

"I've loved the way this team has played and given everyone incredible joy. The fans in Belgium have appreciated this. It's now time for me to accept this is the last game.

"I've always wanted to be loyal and finish the job. I'm not resigning, it's the end of my contract. This was always the plan."

Much of the discussion surrounding Belgium's underwhelming campaign in Qatar has focused on the ageing of a so-called 'golden generation' of players, with Kevin De Bruyne stating the Red Devils' squad was "too old" to win the World Cup before the tournament began.

However, Martinez does not believe Belgium's best days are behind them, highlighting the way his team's achievements could inspire the country's next generation. 

"You see players like Youri Tielemans, players like Amadou Onana and Jeremy Doku," Martinez told BBC Sport. "The golden generation is doing something that is bringing the next generation on.

"It's not necessarily what names are on the pitch, the legacy can be left in many ways.

"Today, we are out of a big tournament, and now the standards need to carry on rising, the young players need to carry on this line.

"We wanted to get through, but I'm sure the other national teams wanted to get through too. That's a tournament, and you are in the best tournament in the world. 

"In the previous one [in 2018], we won all three group games and it wasn't in enough go all the way. For me, it's the same feeling. Today, it was a way of losing that you can accept."

In a statement issued by the Belgian Football Association, CEO Peter Bossaert hailed Martinez for creating an "immense legacy" for future generations in the national side.

"With his team Roberto left an immense legacy for the next Belgian football generations," he said.

"Not only by introducing a modern structure on analysis, education and scouting but also by initiating the preparation for the next step in the careers of the players aiming to become a coach. But also his contribution to the expansion of the brand-new and state-of-the-art Football centre in Tubize was huge.

"Last but not least we thank him for the familiar atmosphere he brought into our house and for being a great ambassador for Belgian football. The full staff of the RBFA will miss him a lot. We wish Roberto Martínez the best of luck for the future.”

Belgium were eliminated from the World Cup in the group stage after drawing 0-0 with Croatia at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Thursday.

Morocco's 2-1 victory over Canada elsewhere in Group F meant Belgium had to win to advance to the last 16, while Croatia needed to avoid defeat.

A low-quality first half, in which the only talking point was an overturned Croatia penalty, made way for a far more gripping second period.

Romelu Lukaku was brought on at half-time and squandered a few big chances, though ultimately the match finished goalless as Belgium suffered a shock early exit. 

Belgium were given an early reprieve when a penalty awarded for Yannick Carrasco's challenge on Andrej Kramaric was overturned for offside against Dejan Lovren in the build-up as Luka Modric was lining up to take it.

The arrival of Lukaku coincided with the game finally coming to life, the Inter striker forcing Dominik Livakovic into the first save of the contest a little over three minutes after coming on.

That in turn sparked Croatia into life and Thibaut Courtois – on his 100th cap – made three saves in the space of four minutes to deny midfield trio Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic and Luka Modric.

Lukaku then hit the post with plenty of the net to aim for after Carrasco's blocked shot fell nicely in his path, before heading over from close range with the goal again gaping – though VAR may have intervened even if he had scored.

The biggest miss was still to come as Lukaku failed to help the ball over the line from a couple of yards when Thorgan Hazard's cross was missed by Lovren, meaning elimination for Belgium and a second-place finish behind Morocco for Croatia.

Romelu Lukaku remained on the bench for Belgium's game against Croatia and was joined there by Red Devils captain Eden Hazard.

Belgium have endured a tumultuous week ahead of a World Cup match they almost certainly must win in order to advance from Group F.

Reports of a rift within the camp were dismissed as "fake news" by Roberto Martinez at his pre-match news conference.

In the same media briefing, Martinez said Lukaku – who returned from injury as a substitute in the defeat to Morocco – was "ready".

However, he added: "Now we have to see how much he can play."

The answer, it appears, was not enough to start, with Lukaku again left out of the XI and finding company on the bench in the form of skipper Hazard.

Michy Batshuayi, Lukaku's deputy, also made way as four changes saw an apparent move to a 3-4-3 formation.

Dries Mertens looked set to lead the line, supported by Yannick Carrasco and Leandro Trossard.

Croatia were unchanged after beating Canada 4-1 in their previous match to take control of the group heading into matchday three.

Belgium have lost form at a terrible time at the World Cup, with their place in the last 16 at risk against Croatia, but Eden Hazard still believes in their quality.

The Red Devils were out of sorts in beating Canada 1-0 and were duly punished in their second match against Morocco, losing 2-0.

That defeat ended a 13-game unbeaten run in group-stage games at the finals, although they have not lost consecutive such matches since a sequence of three in a row across the 1982 and 1986 tournaments.

Another reverse against Croatia – who impressed in crushing Canada – would see them eliminated, while a draw may not be enough either.

"We have to do better, we cannot deliver the performance we want [right now]," said captain Hazard, who also skippered Belgium to the semi-finals four years ago.

"We have to show it on the pitch, that is what counts. We still have quality in the group and are here to win.

"We lack confidence because of that last pass and that last dribble. We have to regain that confidence."

That lack of confidence is particularly evident in the final third, with Belgium netting with just one of 19 shots. That conversion rate of 5.3 per cent is their lowest at a finals since converting only three of 93 attempts in 1982 (3.2 per cent).

Concerningly, Croatia have had no such issues of late, with their four goals against Canada tying their World Cup record for a single match (also vs Cameroon in 2014).

The 2018 finalists have also won four of their past five group-stage matches, drawing the other, and their only defeats to fellow European nations in 10 World Cup meetings have been to France – in both 1998 and 2018.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Croatia – Andrej Kramaric

Kramaric was in inspired form against Canada, scoring twice before being substituted 17 minutes from time when he surely would have backed himself for a hat-trick. It was only the second World Cup brace by a Croatia player (also Mario Mandzukic vs Cameroon in 2014).

Belgium – Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku has appeared for only nine minutes as a substitute so far at this tournament, but it is surely time for Belgium to turn to their main man. He has scored all three of the Red Devils' goals across their past two meetings with Croatia – both of which they have won.

PREDICTION

This is one of the most finely balanced matches of the tournament so far, according to the supercomputer. While Belgium are marginal favourites, given a 37.2 per cent chance of winning, Croatia are just behind on 36.5 per cent.

Does that make a draw most likely? That result, which suits Croatia far better than Belgium, is rated at 26.3 per cent.

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