The European dark horses, Belgium, are known for their unpredictability. The Eden Hazard-led side consists of some of the biggest European footballing names. Having taken part in twelve World Cups, the Belgium national football team is a very experienced side. After failing to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Belgium suddenly came up with some of the best emerging players that have begun to rule the footballing world and most importantly the English Premier League.
Team Intro: Belgium are right now positioned at the peak of their footballing history, by being placed third in the May FIFA rankings. Captain Eden Hazard and Laurent Courtois have had a good English Premier League outing with Chelsea. Though Marouane Fellaini had somewhat of a forgettable season with Manchester United barring his match-winning FA Cup final goal, his club teammate Romelu Lukaku probably performed his best this season. Vincent Kompany captained Manchester City to a league win this time and it was Kevin de Bruyne who spearheaded this feat.
Road to World Cup finals: After failing to qualify for 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Belgium were determined to make this their second consecutive appearance and they successfully made it to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Belgium had more of a cakewalk to qualify for the World Cup as they topped their group of six and registered a mammoth victory of 8-1 over Estonia.
History: Belgium has qualified for a total of 12 World Cups along with five UEFA European Football Championship qualifications. Belgium also appeared in three Olympic football tournaments. Belgium, however, has had an infamous rivalry with neighbours France and the Netherlands after countinous matches for almost every year from 1905 to 1967.
Major Honours: Belgium have till date, made twelve appearances at the FIFA World Cup and their best result was the fourth place finish in the 1986 World Cup. Drawn against Tunisia, Panama, and England, Belgium can surely go past the group stage this time.
Olympic Games Belgium successfully won the Gold medal in the 1921 Olympic Games.
Euro Cup Belgium ended runner-ups in the 1979-1980 Euro Cup.
Fixtures: Belgium are placed in the Group G in this year’s FIFA World Cup, alongside Tunisia, Panama, and England. Belgium play Panama on June 18. Then they would go on to play Tunisia on June 23. They would finally end their group stage campaign with a tie with England on June 28.
- 18th June: Belgium vs Panama
- 23rd June: Belgium vs Tunisia
- 28th June: Belgium vs England
Squad: Belgium announced their final squad going into the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, on June 4.
Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool).
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Thomas Meunier (Paris St-Germain), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur).
Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Youri Tielemans (Monaco), Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian).
Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea), Nacer Chadli (West Brom), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United).
Captain: Though the ‘Red Devils’ haven’t yet announced the captain to lead them into the upcoming World Cup, Eden Hazard looks to be the likely choice to lead Belgium with the captain’s armband.
Coach: Spanish nationalRoberto Martínez would be Belgium’s coach going into the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. He was sacked as Everton’s manager to sign for Belgium national team on August 3, 2016.
Top players to watch out for:
Eden Hazard: Eden Hazard had one of his best league outings for Chelsea as he scored 12 goals along with 4 assists in his 34 outings for the EPL side. He also scored 3 goals in 8 UCL matches he played this season. He proves to be a dangerous attacking midfielder who can play in various positions in attack.
Kevin de Bruyne: Kevin de Bruyne wreaked havoc with his team Manchester City in the EPL. De Bruyne managed to score 8 goals this season along with a whopping 16 assists in the recently concluded EPL season. Kevin de Bruyne has in the recent times worked on his game and has become a dangerous midfielder. His passing, vision and eye for goal makes him arguably the most important player in the team.
Romelu Lukaku: Lukaku turned out to become a fighter for Manchester United, with only he seaming to make efforts for the club to win matches. By scoring 16 goals in 34 EPL outings and 5 goals in 8 UCL appearances, Lukaku is surely a man to watch out for in Russia.
Strongest Starting XI:
- Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
- Defense: Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Meunier
- Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne, Marouane Fellaini, Axel Witsel, Mousa Dembele
- Forward: Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku
Considered as the Dark Horses of this World Cup, Belgium have big names in all departments of the game. But will they click as a team under Martinez in Russia? Only time will tell…