Afternoon everyone and a happy Saturday to you all! We have a jam-packed Euro 2016 schedule for you today, with Iceland and Hungary going head to head at 5pm and Portugal taking on Austria in the evening clash. Before all that, though, we have a tie between Belgium and Republic of Ireland in Bordeaux. Right here, is where you can follow all the action!
It has been a pleasant week for the home nations (well, for some of them) as England managed to overcome neighbours Wales with a late 2-1 victory, while Northern Ireland earned their first win at a major tournament in 34 years! They did so by beating Ukraine 2-0, which has given them an opportunity to qualify for the last 16.
It is Republic of Ireland's turn to impress as they look to build on their performance against Sweden. It was a spirited showing from O'Neill's men and they were in full control of the match when Wes Hoolahan scored a great goal in the 48th minute. Despite their positive performance, they were dealt a blow when Clark turned in Zlatan Ibrahimovic's cross to score an own goal. Ireland failed to respond with 18 minutes left on the clock and were forced to accept a draw.
In complete contrast, Belgium, who headed into the tournament as one of the favourites to take home the crown, stumbled against Italy. They never found their feet and there were individual lacklustre performances from the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne. Manager Marc Wilmots has faced criticism back in Belgium for the display, which ended in a 2-0 defeat to Italy. He was also criticised by one of his own players! But more of that later...
So, Marc Wilmots has made three changes to the side that lost to Italy. Thomas Meunier comes in at right-back, while midfielder Mousa Dembele and attacker Yannick Carrasco come into the fray. Laurent Ciman, Nadja Nainggolan and Marouane Fellaini are the players to drop out. Romelu Lukaku keeps his spot up front, despite a lacklustre display against the Italians. Belgium also have their injured captain Vincent Kompany around for moral support..
As for the Republic, O'Neill has made just the one change and it's an enforced one as Jonathan Walters is ruled out with an Achilles injury. Stephen Ward has come into the side to slot in defence, therefore pushing Robbie Brady into midfield. Goalscorer Wes Hoolahan keeps his place and will sit just behind striker Shane Long. Skipper Robbie Keane starts on the bench.
This is a huge game for both sides this afternoon as Ireland will be angered by their failure to see out the match against Sweden, while Belgium will be determined to get back on track after they were outplayed by Italy. The danger for Belgium, though, is that their chances of reaching the knockout stages will be in serious doubt if they do not get a win today. They have zero points on the board, while Ireland have one, Sweden have one and Italy are already through with six.
Against Italy, the Belgians conceded a goal just after the half-hour mark when Emanuele Giaccherini struck. They were unable to react positively as Antonio Conte's side were tactically a level above their opponents. Lukaku failed to make an impact and was later replaced with Liverpool striker Divock Origi, who also struggled to cause problems to Italy's defence. The hammer blow came in the 92nd minute when Southampton's Graziano Pelle scored on the counter-attack
Wilmots took the brunt of the criticism for Belgium's display. The media in his homeland were not too kind, but he is also alleged to have been involved in an altercation with his own goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois!
After the match, the Chelsea goalkeeper told Sportwereld: "We were outclassed on all fronts. Tactically, technically and organisationally we came up short."
Those comments apparently angered Wilmots, and according to beIN Sport, the pair almost came to blows while having a 'lively discussion' on the flight back to their training base. It is bad enough when you lose your opening game at a tournament, it will only get worse if there is disharmony in the camp!
When Wilmots faced the media and was asked about the criticism, he told reporters: "It's very simple. I have played in four World Cups after all, and in 2002 everyone destroyed us.
"I was prepared for this before coming here and we see all the so-called big nations struggling. Football is the way it is. I am used to it and my players all play for big clubs so they know how to handle the pressure.
"They are the ones who play, I make the decisions and choose the strategy, and after that you need luck. That is the charm of football but we are trying to get on with it and move forward."
DID YOU KNOW? Belgium have suffered 2-0 defeats in their last three matches in a European Championships. In fact, they have lost six of their last eight games in the tournament. In addition, they have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight fixtures, which is their longest run since 1986.
In all honesty, the stats are not that impressive when it comes to Belgium at the Euros. Although, it's worth noting that the team did not qualify for the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Championships. They will hope to make more of an attacking impact against Ireland as just five of their 18 shots against Italy were taken from inside the box.
It has only been in the last few years when Belgium have become a big figure in international football. In fact, they are currently second behind Argentina in the FIFA world rankings. The nation failed to qualify for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, but they were in the hat in Brazil in 2014 and ended up reaching the quarter-finals.
Belgium have plenty of individual talent among their ranks, with the majority of the squad playing top-level football at their respective clubs. For example, the Premier League has 11 representatives in the Euro 2016 Belgium squad, including Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Marouane Fellaini, Mousa Dembele, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Divock Origi and Christian Benteke.
There is one Belgian player that is well liked by Ireland's assistant coach Roy Keane and that is Marouane Fellaini. The midfielder, who plays for Keane's former club Manchester United, is known to ruffle a few feathers with his elbowing antics on the pitch. Fellaini has faced criticism from his own club fans since arriving at Old Trafford in 2013, but Keane is a fan.
"I like him," Keane told reporters. "I thought the criticism he had when he went to United was a bit over the top. The fans were maybe quick to jump on his back.
"I saw him a few times live when United weren't great and thought he did okay. But he seemed to be the scapegoat for the fans, which can happen when a new manager (David Moyes) brings in certain players and the new signings get criticism.
"But we saw him recently scoring some important goals. I liked him at Everton and I think he's a good player for Man United. If anything, the fans should have been criticising the experienced players at United who weren't helping him out or who weren't helping out the new manager. But that's another story."
Keane will be pleased not to see Fellaini in today's lineup! The result against Sweden was very disappointing given that they were the better side. Hoolahan's goal shortly after the restart was much deserved for O'Neill and his side, but one mistake from Clark ruined their chances of taking three points.
It was unfortunate for the defender as he was left in an awkward position when Ibrahimovic's cross came into the box. Clark had already spotted a yellow shirt behind him ready to tap in, so all he could do was try to head it behind for a corner, but due to the pace on the ball, he ended up heading it into his own net. Ireland fans, look away now!
Understandably, Clark was devastated by his mistake, but he has since managed to brush it aside and focus on the matter at hand.
The Irish News quotes the defender as saying: "It's one of them things. When the ball comes into the box as a defender, any defender will say you've got to get your body in there and try to get the ball away. Unfortunately for us, it went into the bottom corner, which was obviously devastating, but we can't think about it now, we have just got to think about the positives and look forward to the game in hand.
"Obviously, the night of the game, there wasn't much sleeping, it was ticking over in your head and that. But when you wake up the next day, it's gone, there is nothing you can do about it."
The Aston Villa man also got support from Keane, who said: "He didn't kill anybody. These things happen. Defenders get into position, a good delivery... We've seen it happen. It hasn't even crossed my mind, he's a good lad, he's done well for us."
Ireland are heading into this game as underdogs given the calibre of players in the Belgium team. Although, they can be encouraged by the Red Devils' performance against Italy. On the other hand, O'Neill is expecting their opponents to come out firing today.
He told reporters: "I think they are possibly the most talented set of individual players at the tournament, that would be my view of them.
"They've got talent and players playing big, big matches every single week at club level, so we have to cope with that. I think they are very, very dangerous. It will be a tough night for us. We want to try to make it as tough for them as well.
"When the group was announced, I think that Belgium finishing any worse than second is not something that they would have contemplated, so they will be coming out all guns blazing. We have to deal with that and the individual threat from them that they have got in abundance. We're going to have to show the same sort of attitude [as we did against Sweden] again."
STATS! Ireland have never reached the knockout rounds as they were eliminated in the group stage in both the 1988 and 2012 Euros. They have also not picked up a victory in their last six matches at the tournament. On their debut, though, they managed to beat England 1-0. Since then they have lost four and drawn two.
In addition, the team have never found the back of the net more than once in a game at the European Championships, but they recorded their best ever tally of shots on target last week by creating four against Sweden.
HEAD TO HEAD: As you may have expected, Belgium have the better record over Republic of Ireland as they are unbeaten in their last six meetings between the two, which dates back to 1966. Interestingly, the two nations have not played one another since November 1997, when Belgium earned a 2-1 win in a World Cup qualifier.
Both teams are out on the pitch and the national anthems have begun! How do you see this game going? On paper, Belgium should nab all three points, but they were poor against France and Ireland were spirited against Sweden, so it could go either way!
De Bruyne releases Lukaku with a long pass from midfield. O'Shea tracks the forward all the way, and the move breaks down as Lukaku struggles to find a teammate. Belgium have had most of the ball and are on the frontfoot.
De Bruyne looks in the mood here! He shows great feet in the box as he turns away from his marker before knocking the ball wide to Carrasco, who whips a low cross into the area but goalkeeper Randolph scoops up the ball.
Ireland are holding their shape well in their own half. They have a chance to go on the attack and the ball is played down the left-hand side. Ward and Hoolahan play a one-two, but it ends up back in Belgium's possession.
Almost a nervy moment for Belgium as Meunier's sends a loose back pass to Courtois. Long is ready to pounce, but the ball just gets away from him as he tries to connect. The keeper manages to get there first.
CHANCE! Whelan hits the ball out for Belgium's first corner of the game. De Bruyne whips it in and Alderweireld gets a glancing header on the ball, which fizzes across goal, but none of his teammates can get on the end of it for a tap in.
Witsel loses control of the ball on the edge of the area and Coleman snatches it before clearing it up field. As expected, Belgium have had the majority of possession and Courtois is yet to be tested, but Ireland are defending well.
Coleman concedes a free kick after tussling with Hazard. He's not impressed with the referee and it's quite soft in fairness. De Bruyne takes the set piece and it's a great delivery into the box, but none of his teammates attack it and the ball bounces behind for a goal kick.
OVER THE BAR! What a lovely cross from De Bruyne! The Manchester City man is finding his stride here. He whips it into the box looking for Lukaku, who inadvertently sends it back into Hazard's path. The Chelsea playmaker strikes from the edge of the area, but blazes it over the bar.
A chance almost opens up for Ireland! Belgium lose the ball in a dangerous area and it ends up at Hoolahan's feet on the edge of the box. He needs to just roll the ball to Hendrick, but he takes a few too many touches and Alderweireld puts in a decent tackle.
GOAL DISALLOWED! De Bruyne is involved again as he plays the ball over the top for Carrasco, who is completely unmarked. The attacker tries to flick the ball over Randolph and it clatters off the bar. Carrasco picks up the rebound and heads the ball into the back of the net, but he's rightfully ruled offside.
De Bruyne rolls the ball out to Meunier, who goes for goal with the right side of his boot on the edge of the area, but he misses the target. Lukaku's not happy with his teammate's decision as the forward was waiting in the penalty area.
Belgium knock the ball around the edge of the area before Witsel unleashes a thumping strike from the edge of the box, but it bounces off the back of Ward. Ireland then try to counter by heaving it up field for Long, but the forward cannot keep the ball in.
BOOKING! Hendrick is the first man of the game to receive a yellow card. The Irishman is penalised for trying to disrupt Belgium's attack by kicking a second ball forward. Not sure how two balls got on the pitch in the first place!
It's been a dominant display from Belgium, but the first half draws to a close without a goal being scored. As expected, Marc Wilmots side have had the majority of possession and attacking spells. As for the Republic, they are yet to really get going on the frontfoot, but they have so far managed to handle what Belgium have thrown at them. Martin O'Neill's side have caused some troubles to their opponents' defence, but their final touch is lacking at the moment. We'll return for the second half shortly!
He was quiet in the first half, but early in the second, Lukaku comes alive with a goal! Belgium go on the counter-attack and De Bruyne leads the charge. He storms down the right-hand side before drifting inside and passing across to Lukaku, who smashes the ball into the bottom corner with his left foot.
It was unfortunate for Ireland as just a few seconds before, they could have been awarded a penalty due to Alderweireld's high leg in the penalty box. The ball drifted into the box from a free kick, and found Long, but Alderweireld got slight contact on the forward. The referee waved away penalty claims, though.
Handball?! No, according to the referee. Ireland have a spell of pressure as the try to find a way through around the box. Hendrick tries to flick the ball forward, but it appears to bounce off Witsel's hand on the edge of the area. The referee is having none of it, though.
Ireland are playing much more positively in this second half. Hendrick plays the ball out wide to Coleman, who sends it into the box to find Long, but it bounces back out to Brady, who takes a shot, but it bounces off a Belgian shirt.
Belgium are fully in control as they go 2-0 up! A lovely ball from Meunier is drifted into the box. Witsel is the man to get on the end of it as he sends a header past Randolph in the 18-yard box. It was poor defender from McCarthy, though, as he let the goalscorer get away from him.
Belgium are flying! Lukaku nets his second and his country's third of the match after firing from the centre of the box. It's poor from Clark as he lunges in on Hazard, but the Chelsea playmaker charges away from him. He then knocks the ball across to Lukaku, who finishes off the move. Game over?
So, there we have it! Belgium have answered their critics with a comfortable 3-0 win over Group E opponents Republic of Ireland this afternoon. Romelu Lukaku, who was very quiet in the first half, scored twice and Axel Witsel scored another as Belgium got off the ground following their opening defeat to Italy. From Ireland's point of view, they need to beat group winners Italy in their final match in order to qualify for the last 16.
That's all from me this afternoon, but make sure you stick with Sports Mole for all the latest Euro 2016 results, news and reaction. Until next time, goodbye!