Belgium are considered dark horses for the forthcoming World Cup with a new breed of talented players currently in the squad. However, before this summer, they haven’t really made an impact in many previous tournaments, apart from finishing fourth back in 1986.
They haven’t even made an appearance at the last two finals, but they will look to be making their mark this summer and show other countries that they have arrived and are willing to go head-to-head with the best of them. They now have a decent manager and a team filled with players from the top leagues in England, Italy and Germany, to name just three.
Led by manager Marc Wilmots and with players such as Courtois and Kompany in their midst, they could very well go far in the competition.
Qualification and Group
Belgium managed to top their qualification group rather easily with eight wins, two draws and no losses, with the side’s only real problem in qualification being Croatia.
That isn’t to say Belgium will be the best team at the World Cup – they were also held to a draw against Wales in qualification and slip-ups like that could cost them dearly this summer, while they haven’t had much experience of a World Cup in these past few years and it will be a new thing for most players in the squad.
The Belgians have, however, been handed a relatively easy group, as they will be joined by Russia, Algeria and South Korea. Russia will be the biggest threat to finishing top of the group with Fabio Capello in charge, but even they don’t seem much of a challenge. They may have beaten Portugal in qualifying and finished top of their group, ahead of the Portuguese, but the team’s best finish at a World Cup is only 18th.
Belgium have taken part in 12 previous World Cups, but they have failed to qualify for the past two tournaments in 2006 and 2010. Their last World Cup was 12 years ago, back in 2002.
The best finish for them was back in 1986 when they reached the semi-finals, only to be beaten 2-0 by a Diego Maradonna-led Argentina.
Other than that, the finishes have been uninspiring for the national side, with the next best finish being the round of 16.
As previously mentioned, Belgium have a very talented young squad, which is packed with stars from the top leagues, who have all impressed for their club sides this past season.
One of the main players is goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who spent last season on loan at Atletico Madrid from Chelsea for the third time. He seriously impressed last term, as he helped the Spanish side claim the La Liga title for the first time since 1996.
Another one to keep an eye on is Romelu Lukaku, who will be looking to prove himself on the big stage and also prove he deserves a first-team place at Chelsea after several good seasons out on loan.
Yet another Blues player who could have a huge impact on the fortunes of the squad is winger Eden Hazard, who will be looking to take his brilliant club-form onto the World stage. So too will Man United’s Adnan Januzaj, who has impressed in his breakthrough season for The Red Devils.
However there are some players who will be missing out on the tournament. Aston Villa forward Christian Benteke hasn’t been selected because he is carrying an injury, while Timmy Simons, who has been capped 93 times for the national team, won’t be going to Brazil because he has retired from international football.
There is also a lack of strikers for Belgium, with the injury to Benteke, with only two strikers making the trip to Brazil.
Here is the squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, on loan from Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Sammy Bossut (Zulte Waregem).
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St Petersburg), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Nacer Chadli (Tottenham), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham), Steven Defour (Porto), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Divock Origi (Lille), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg).
Forwards: Romelu Lukaku (Everton, on loan from Chelsea), Dries Mertens (Napoli)
By Charlie Gregory
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