After turning in one of the most impressive performances of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia so far in their victory over Panama, Belgium with face another examination of their credentials against Tunisia on Saturday.
Roberto Martinez's side were 3-0 winners in their first clash, eventually proving to be far too good for their opponents when they found their attacking groove. Tunisia should provide a more robust foe in this Group G showdown.
Later in the day, the focus turns to Group F. Mexico stunned Germany in their first fixture and will be favourites when they take the field against South Korea. Germany, meanwhile, will be tasked with bouncing back against an obdurate Sweden team who already have points on the board.
Here are the matches to come, odds for the fixtures in question and a look ahead to what may transpire in these matches.
Saturday Fixtures (BST)
3 p.m. local time/1 p.m. BST/8 a.m ET - *Belgium (-455), Tunisia (+1200), Draw (+525)
6 p.m. local time/4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET - *Mexico (-245), South Korea (+750), Draw (+260)
9 p.m. local time/7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET - *Germany (-220), Sweden (+700), Draw (+300)
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.
Here are the respective standings ahead of Saturday's games:
Big Things Expected of Belgium
For 45 minutes of their match against Panama, Belgium were an underwhelming watch as they failed to break down their humble opponents. Then, after the break, they turned on the style.
Dries Mertens scored a stunning volley, Romelu Lukaku headed home from Kevin De Bruyne's excellent cross and then Lukaku raced on to a through ball from Eden Hazard to make it 3-0. It was an illustration of what this quartet of players are capable of when they are on form.
Lukaku, in particular, looked in great fettle. The Manchester United man has all the attributes—pace, power and tremendous goalscoring intelligence—to do damage to poor defences.
Lukaku is a man on fire for the national team at the moment:
Tunisia have shown enough to suggest they can make things tougher for Belgium than Panama did, though, as they were determined for long spells against England before eventually losing the game in stoppage time.
Elsewhere, another side that's proved their worth at the tournament already is Sweden, as they earned a key three points against South Korea on Monday. Now they'll be out to deliver a shock against Germany.
The world champions, by contrast, will be under enormous pressure to bounce back in this encounter. They were well below their best against Mexico in their opening loss, so much so that James Gheerbrant of the Times believes a total tactical rethink may be needed:
James Gheerbrant @JamesGheerbrant
One issue is that the team was totally different at the Confed Cup (apart from Kimmich & Hector). The CM pairing was Goretzka & Rudy, one of whom should probably replace Khedira. And of course you lose an attacker, altho given Kimmich's offensive threat that's not disastrous IMO
Manager Joachim Low may well keep faith in the players that have helped Germany become one of the most feared national teams in the game at the moment. Whether the slump against Mexico was an off day or something a little more deep-rooted may well be revealed on Saturday
El Tri, meanwhile, are in a wonderful position to qualify having dispatched of the world champions already and in some style.
Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe praised their all-round display:
Sam Tighe @stighefootball
FT: #GER 0-1 #MEX. In the face of a rapid counter-attack, Germany threw bodies forward early and were punished. Mexico so good across the board; Lozano, Vela, Herrera particularly excellent. Germany’s recklessness threw Boateng + Hummels under the bus. Khedira awful. #WorldCup
Manager Juan Carlos Osorio will be preparing his team for a different challenge on Saturday, though, as South Korea's defensive tactics will likely deny Mexico the space to surge into on the counter.
As a result, the likes of Carlos Vela, Hirving Lozano and Javier Hernandez may have to be a little more patient in their play. However, so far South Korea have shown little evidence that they're capable of posing any sort of threat at the other end of the field.