Belgium. If you’re an England fan, you’ll be wanting to pay attention to what’s going on in the Belgian camp. Roberto Martinez and Thierry Henry take their squad into the World Cup after an impressive qualifying run which saw them drop just two points. They also scored a monumental 43 goals throughout their qualifiers, so you can expect an exciting attacking look from the squad.
In 12 appearances at the World Cup, the Red devils have never reached the final and only managed to reach the semi-final once in 1986. In the 2014 World cup, they went out to finalists Argentina in the quarter-finals after an early goal from Gonzalo Higuain.
Belgium Squad outlook:
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).
Squad talk: The big news from the Belgian squad announcement was the exclusion of Radja Nainggolan. The Roma midfielder wasn’t pleased to be left out and after the squad was released, he announced his retirement from international football with a social media post.
Meanwhile, Christian Benteke has been left at home whilst injury prone defenders Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen both make the final 23. There was also a place for former Manchester United midfielder Adnan Januzaj, as well as Marouane Fellaini.
The star of the squad is Eden Hazard. Premier League fans will know all about Hazard’s skill, finishing prowess and his ability to win games on his own. If he is on his game, he really can be unplayable. He managed six goals and five assists during Belgium’s qualifying run.
King of the country
The greatest Belgian player of all time is probably Paul Van Himst. The former Anderlecht striker lead the line for his country from 1960-74 scoring 30 goals. Until recently, he was the record scorer for the Red devils. Recently, he was surpassed by Romelu Lukaku in November 2017 when he bagged a brace against Mexico.
Van Himst also managed the Belgian national side and he lead them to the World Cup in 1994. Perhaps the thing he is most well known for is his appearance as Michel Fieu in ‘Escape to Victory’.
Who’s the gaffa?
The manager is former Everton and Swansea boss, Roberto Martinez. Martinez was a surprise appointment after the RBFA sacked Marc Wilmots in 2016 for ‘not reaching the goals we set out to achieve’ at Euro 2016.
Martinez does his job alongside Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry who acts as his assistant. He guided the side to an unbeaten qualifying run and the World cup will be his first major tournament in international management.
I think Belgium will win all three group games to win the group. Personally, I see them getting as far as the Quarter-final stage where, per my predictions, they will face Brazil. They will be big underdogs for that, and I can’t see them upsetting bookmakers to be honest.
Lazy fan fact: During the 1970’s, the team changed their jersey to an all white kit and were temporarily known as the White devils.