Belgium became one of the first European teams to seal their place at next year’s World Cup finals with a 2-1 victory in Croatia on Friday night.
On-loan Everton striker Romelu Lukaku scored a double as Marc Wilmots side secured their ticket to Brazil.
Wilmots team are the most impressive that the Belgians have produced in a very long time.
The former-Belgium international himself was in the pretty good team, but the current team have potential to go even further than their bosses’ team.
During the qualification campaign Belgium have gone from being ranked 40th in the world rankings to their current position of 5th. The rise has been a mighty one, but that rise has been because of their impressive form during World Cup qualification campaign.
As England’s so called ‘Golden Generation’ wind down their careers, Belgium’s are just getting started. The difference is Belgium might actually win some silverware. The strength in-depth that Belgium have at their disposal is really quite impressive.
Belgium could pick a top class team just from the players that play in the Premier League. The English top-flight has seen a major influx of talented Belgium footballers in the last few years and these players are playing for some of the top clubs in England.
The two first choice Belgium keepers are contracted to English clubs. Simon Mignolet has made an impressive start to his Liverpool career. Thibaut Courtois is contracted to Chelsea, but is currently on-loan at Atletico Madrid. He is regarded as one of the best up-and-coming keepers in world football.
In defence it is a similar story of familiar faces from the Premier League. Tottenham’s outstanding defender Jan Vertonghen recently captained the national side. Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is another that patrols the backline for Belgium.
Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen is another player usually seen in the Belgian backline, but was only a substitute for the recent World Cup qualifier in Croatia.
In midfield Belgium have the skill and guile of Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, the strength and height of Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini and the pace and skill of Everton winger Kevin Mirallas.
That’s not the mention current out of favour Chelsea youngster Kevin De Bruyne, who has shown so much early promise in his career. Tottenham’s Nacer Chadli is not currently in Belgium squad, but the winger will be fighting for a place in that World Cup squad.
In attack Belgium have two of the most promising strikers in the Premier League. Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke is currently injured, but he could be vital to Belgium when the big event rolls up next year. Fellow youngster Romelu Lukaku has made a blistering start to life on-loan at Everton from Chelsea and also scored the two goals that confirmed his countries place at the World Cup.
They are just the Premier League players. There are also the likes of highly-rated midfielders Axel Witsel and Stefan Defour and defender Toby Alderweireld, who is a former-Premier League target, in the current squad.
The balance in the current Belgium team looks just right. They have a good mixture of experience and youth within the squad. Their team is also full of players that have experience of playing at the highest level.
Their only problem could be the expectations of the fans in their own country. Fans from the outside have seen Belgium football re-emerge and the promise that their national team holds in recent years. I wonder if the Belgium fans may get slightly carried away and put too much pressure on their players?
Those players are used to pressurised situations though, as most play in front of thousands of fans each week in big games, so maybe that will not be such a problem for the Belgium players.
Wales boss Chris Coleman, whose team face Belgium on Tuesday, has stated that he believes they have an outside chance of winning the trophy. They may be outsiders for the trophy, but they certainly have a decent chance with the players available to Wilmots.
They will cause a lot of team’s problems at the World Cup finals and at 14/1 they really are worth a bet. Belgium seems to have the right balance to the team and decent back-up players as well. If everybody stays fit for next year’s finals then the Belgians should go far in Brazil.
Could Belgium be realistic contenders for the World Cup?