Are Belgium well-placed to make a tilt at the WC next season? – originally posted on Sportslens.com
As the first European side to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Belgium have once again made short work of qualification. They breezed through in 2014, topping a group containing Croatia and Serbia unbeaten with 26 points. In 2016, they had a trickier group with Wales and Bosnia and Herzegovina but still made the Euros as winners of their group with 23 points. This time round, they secured qualification by the seventh game in an easier group containing Bosnia, Greece, Cyprus, Estonia and Gibraltar. But sedate opposition should not dampen or heighten expectations of Belgium given their mixed success in major tournaments in recent times.
It is ironic in some aspects, for England used to have a similar malaise: while they would breeze through qualification, they would struggle in the actual tournament. Belgium, with a wide number of players based in the Premier League, seem to have inherited this. Packed with talent across the squad, they have failed to truly realise their potential on the world stage, at least so far. In 2014, they struggled to impose themselves with free-flowing football in the group stages despite three wins, and then took extra time to beat a Tim Howard-inspired USA. After falling behind to Argentina, that wrapped up an underwhelming tournament. 2016 was more rewarding, but a shock loss to Wales in the quarter-finals ended their hopes. This time, it could be different.
A team that only has one glaring weakness at right-back, there is a glut of talent across the squad. Courtois in goal, Alderweireld and Vertonghen in defence, de Bruyne, Tielemans and Dembele in midfield and Hazard, Mertens, Carrasco and Lukaku in attack to name a few represent some of the big names in this squad. With most players slowly hitting their peak, 2018 could be Belgium’s year. If you think it is, make sure you grab hidden free bet information available at bigfreebet.com.
Marc Wilmots has been replaced by Roberto Martinez, whose stock isn’t the highest after a disastrous end to his Everton stint, but the Spaniard is better placed to make use of the ‘Golden Generation’. A group of players as talented as Belgium have rarely come around at the same time- which is why it would be a shame for them not to truly challenge for a world title, what would be their maiden victory.
But odds are that they aren’t going to win it. It is football, but there are better teams in the world (Spain, Germany, Brazil, France to name a few) with greater big-game experience, something Belgium lack as a team, if not individually. It is tough to see them winning it. But Belgium are the dark horses, and more importantly, a side that should entertain with the performers they have in their ranks. Playing attacking football all the way to the semi-finals will count as a success. If they can produce the same kind of football that has seen them score 35 goals in 8 qualifiers so far, Belgium will be well-placed to make a deep run in Russia next season. If they do, they’ll be fun to watch.