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Belgium: world cup 2014 potential triumph already on the horizon?

The bilingual country’s current team is arguably the best side it has ever had. Belgium tops its World Cup qualification group with 5 wins and only 1 draw. With an average age of almost 26 and a number of promising players who play for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, is Belgium a serious contender for the 2014 World Cup Glory?

There are too many questions, but what is certain, at least for now, is that we still can’t compare Belgium with the big 2 that have been showing consistent superiority for the past few years. By the big two I mean Spain and Germany.

But you could wonder if it’s realistic to say that the current “Red Devils” team has the same chances of winning the next big competition as the likes of Italy, The Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, France and England. Let’s find out!

To start with, Belgium has recently risen to an all time high of 15th on the FIFA World Rankings. The team is on top of Group A in the world cup qualifications so far, having won 5 out 6 games and drew one. The best achievement for the Belgian national team, which was followed by a generally successful period considered their golden age, was finishing second in the UEFA Euro 1980 cup in Italy. But I’d be lying if I said that the Belgium team of the so-called “Golden age” is better than the current team or vice versa. It’s really hard to tell as back then many things were different. The FIFA World Ranking didn’t exist and the World Cup and Euro qualifiers were not the same as they are now. So I’d rather be careful when it comes to comparing those 2 generations.

Even though there are 14 teams ahead of Belgium in the FIFA World Rankings, besides Spain and Germany, only The Netherlands, Argentina, Italy and England are in my opinion likely contenders for World Cup glory. However, I believe that Belgium is not far away. Let’s take a closer at the Belgian squad and see how we can complete the starting lineup:

In goal the young Thibaut Courtois (21) has earned his role as the first choice goalkeeper regardless of his age after showing some solid performances for his club Athletico Madrid. In central defence, Manchester City and Belgium’s captain Vincent Kompany (27) stands firm in his position alongside his vice captain and Arsenal’s captain Thomas Vermaelen (27). Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen (26) who has been recently nominated in the 2012-2013 PFA of the year and won the Premier League player of the month award in March 2013, occupies the left back spot. In center midfield, 2 other Premier League players: Marouane Fellaini (25) who’s a regular starter for Everton and won the Premier League player of the month award in November 2012 and Mousa Dembélé (25) a Tottenham Hotspur regular starter. Maybe Belgium’s 2 most talented players are their attacking midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne (21) and Eden Hazard (22).  The latter is who currently plays for Chelsea, is on his way to becoming one of the best in the world and is definitely one of the best players of his generation. In my opinion he is a mix of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He’s fast, tricky, skillful and he’s known for his finishing, pace, dribbling and balance. With all those characteristics, Hazard could become the next superstar. De Bruyne, is also a very skillful player. Although he hasn’t yet reached the same status as Hazard, without a doubt he has the potential to become a great player, especially now that Champions League finalists, Borussia Dortmund, are pursuing him.  A year under Klopp would probably be very beneficial for the player ahead of the World Cup. On the front line, 2 relatively young players, Christian Benteke (22) and Romelu Lukaku (20) have the potential to give solid performances in attack for the national team and they have proved that this season with their clubs. Lukaku who is on Loan with Premier League side, West Bromwich Albion, has scored 14 goals this season in the league so far: An impressive number for a 20 year-old. Benteke is currently one of the most talked about strikers in the Premier League. The Aston Villa striker’s performances this season have attracted the attention of many clubs and it’s said that the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Dortmund are keeping tabs on the young Belgian.

These are 10 players that could fill almost every position for the Belgian starting 11. Some of them are potential stars and others are already established players. Most of them play in the Premier League and all are relatively young. Is that enough to compete for the coming World Cup in Brazil? We will probably have to wait one more season to answer that question.

Another strong point is the manager Marc Willmots who doesn’t have enough experience on the club level, but knows the national team very well. He has been there for almost 3 years, first as an assistant and then as a manager and witnessed the rise of the young talents.

But as things stand, I think it’s still soon for the Belgian national team to win the World Cup in Brazil. In my opinion they are still missing capable substitutes and experience. However, I wouldn’t doubt their ability to play a good tournament and challenge the big teams.

 Simon Sammour