Today we take a look at one of the most anticipated football teams not just in this World Cup edition, but in all the history of the tournament, we are talking about Belgium football team here, a team that qualified after an impressive campaign & most importantly a team that possess a host of star names that makes a lot of people willing to place their bets this year on the Belgian team!
This year it will be the 12th appearance for the “Red Devils” in the World Cup. Their first appearance was in the first ever tournament in Uruguay back in 1930 but they were eliminated early in the tournament. they took place in the 1934,1938 & 1954 World Cups too but failed to even record a win, their first came after 18 long years in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, when they defeated El Salvador 3-0.They qualified for the 1982 edition in Spain and managed to qualify to the second round for the first time but lost to Poland & The Soviet Union and couldn’t continue their run, but worth mentioning that in that year they managed to defeat reigning champions Argentina back than in their opening game 0-1 thanks to a Vandenbergh goal.
Their most impressive participation was in the 1986 World Cup, where they finished 4th with the golden team of the Belgians, with players like Gerets & Jean-Marie Pfaff on the roster, this time they lost to Argentina in the semis & then to France in the 3rd place play-off match.
In Italy’s 1990, Enzo Schifo shined & took his team to the 2nd round but they lost to England in extra time. also in 1994 they qualified to the 2nd round but then lost to Germany. Michel Preud’homme was named Goalkeeper of the tournament back then.
In 1998 World Cup, they drew their three group game against Holland, South Korea & Mexico and crashed early from the tournament. In their last appearance in 2002, they qualified with Japan from their group, but they came along the path of eventual winners Brazil back then in the 2nd round & lost 0-2.
No team ever in the history of Belgium national team possessed such a star packed team like the one Marc Wilmots has, not even the “Golden team” of the 80’s, all the positions contain top players in their position world wide, let’s take a look, for the Goalkeeping they have Courtois, Champions League Finalist & La Liga winner & Simon Mingolet, who had an extraordinary season with Liverpool, in the defense you have Van Buyten, Vermaelen , Alderweireld, Vertonghen & of course team captain & Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, moving to midfield we find names like Zenit’s Axel Witsel, who cost the Russians about 30 million Euros, Marouane Fellaini who despite not having his best seasons even at Manchester , but remains a key player for the national team, Stefen Defour of Porto, Mousa Dembele & Nacer El Chadli from Tottenham & the qualifying campaign top scorer for the Belgians Kevin De Bruyne.
To the most lethal line of the team we move, the attacks, where they have a plenty of names to speak about, especially the wing players, with names Edin Hazard, Kevin Mirallas, Dries Mertens & recently Adnan Januzaj are the key for Marc Wilmots style of play, and despite the absence of Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke due to injury, Romelu Lukaku will be expected to carry his impressive club form this season to Brazil.
The amazing thing is that Marc Wilmots has managed to create a strong & cohesive mix out of all those names, making them blend as one & each forget about his star club status, which made them dominate a group containing teams like Croatia, Serbia & Scotland and make their return to the grand stage after 12 years of absence.
Well, on paper this team appear to have no visible point of weakness, with all those names & credibility they have, one find it difficult to find anything to criticize in this team, but if there’s something Marc Wilmots should be worried about & should put on mind is that he’s team getting “carried away” with all the boosting & media praise they are getting, they have to keep humble & calm because they are yet to achieve anything, and the expectations put on this team are pretty high, so it’s still to be seen how this team will act when matters start to get real & the pressure rises, especially if they go far in the tournament, after a long absence from the World Cup. So, if there’s something the Belgians should be aware of , it’s themselves in the first place!
Marc Wilmots is considered one of the best players Belgium ever had, he’s the country’s top scorer in the tournament with five goals which he scored in his two appearances in 1998 & 2002. This time Wilmots will try to be the one who leads this team to glory, a team which he assembled and created since he took charge of it in 2012.
After a great career as an attacking midfielder, Wilmots turned to training in 2004 with Sint-Truidense, he then moved on to be assistant manager of the national team with both Dick Advocaat & Georges Leekens, before he was appointed as head coach in May 2012.he managed to create a strong group thanks to his good relations with both the players & the management, turning him from a temporary coach to fans favorite.
Wilmots prefer the attacking style on the play, especially depending on Wing attacks, benefiting from the great abilities of players like Hazard & Mertens, he always deploys a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 formation with the duo of Kompany & Van Buyten in the back, Witsel as his holding man & Hazard, De Bruyne attacking from the flanks, with either Lukaku or Benteke as the head of the spear.
It’s hard to pick just one name out of this group to be the star of this team, but Eden Hazard remains the wild card of Belgium, the ex- Lille winger has turned to be Chelsea’s best player under Mourinho’s helm, and despite injuries lately in the season, he’s still expected to be one of the stars of this tournament.
Either on the right or on his preferred left wing, Hazard can be as lethal with his speed & dribbling abilities, and despite scoring just two goals in the qualifying campaign, he still remains one of the names Belgium depends on to score goals with his powerful shot.
He has always been compared to the likes of Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo, but he’s still to make the shift from a promising young player to a star player, and if there’s a better chance for him to do so, it will be this summer’s World Cup if he can manage to lead his team to a successful campaign in Brazil.
Watch our for Romelu Lukaku as well, the Chelsea owned striker had a superb season with Everton on loan, scoring 16 goals in total. being under the watchful eyes of Mourinho & most of Europe’s finest, he’ll look to prove his status as the strong forward Mourinho lacks in Chelsea.
Looking at the names Belgium possess, this team can go far in the tournament, they shouldn’t have trouble conquering their group, but next they’ll have a tough test facing whoever comes from “Group G”, shall they pass, they should be considered a major contender for the Semi-finals. but let’s wait & see will the Belgium team live to fulfill the expectations, or they will end up as many who were raised sky high before the tournament but failed to bring this to reality.