Belgium national team manager Marc Wilmots recently named his final 23-man squad for this summer’s European Championships, which is sure to be the envy of many other nations.
The Red Devils are currently second in the rankings, and boast world-class talent in the squad that should see them improving upon their quarter-final exit in the 2014 World Cup, but can they finally achieve their potential?
Belgium’s squad for the Euros
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Jean-Francois Gillet (Mechelen).
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham, Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Jason Denayer (Galatasaray), Jordan Lukaku (Oostende), Thomas Meunier (Club Brugges), Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Christian Kabasele (Genk).
Midfielders: Moussa Dembele (Tottenham), Radja Nainggolan (Roma), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid).
Forwards: Mitchy Batshuayi (Marseille), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Christian Benteke (Liverpool), Divock Origi (Liverpool).
Belgium won their last international friendly with a 2-1 victory over Switzerland, and have been in fantastic form since the World Cup. In 2015, the Red Devils enjoyed six wins from their seven Euro 2016 qualifiers, and won both their friendlies too. Such outstanding form has led to their second-placed ranking ahead of the European Championships, but talk has been quiet on their chances in the competition.
Belgium’s competititors would want to avoid them
France, Germany, Spain and England are ahead of Belgium in the bookmakers’ estimates which is a big surprise. Defeats have been few and far between for Marc Wilmots’ men after their World Cup exit, and despite boasting a squad featuring Premier League heavyweights such as Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Dembele, Hazard, De Bruyne and Lukaku among others, they are still deemed outsiders.
In truth, Belgium would prefer the tag of underdogs rather than going into the major international tournament with a lot of pressure on their shoulders to deliver, but it’s hard to see how they will fall short when looking at their form and squad depth. In their Euro 2016 group, Belgium will face Italy, Republic of Ireland and Sweden. They will fancy their chances of topping the table, and will be a side most nations would prefer to avoid given how attack-heavy the squad is.
In the 2014 World Cup, Belgium were defensively organised, but struggled for goals. That should be a thing of the past in the Euros, but how far can they go? Belgium are 10/1 to win Euro 2016 this summer, but can they deliver?