Belgium - World Cup 2014 Team Profile
Nick Spiller reports
Road to Brazil
Having not played at a major international soccer tournament since the 2002 World Cup, Belgium comes to Brazil as a new group with a lot of fresh faces. However, with a squad full of talented stars at major soccer clubs, many have picked the nation as a potential dark horse contender to win the entire tournament.
Belgium dominated their UEFA qualifying group, winning 8 games and drawing twice. The only team that offered much competition was Croatia, though they faded late in the run of matches.
For a country that has historically featured at World Cups, being able to return to this big stage after a full decade of failure is a remarkable achievement. In a relatively soft Group H, along with South Korea, Russia and Algeria, the Belgians could go far in Brazil and could produce a real shocker against a major contender, but only if they can conquer their lack of World Cup experience and focus on their talent.
Belgium Kit 1
Belgium Kit 2
Belgium v Algeria 17 June; Belo Horizonte
Belgium v Russia 22 June; Rio de Janeiro
Belgium v South Korea 26 June; Sao Paulo
Belgium could use their talent to become one of the most entertaining teams at the World Cup, or their inexperience could doom them. Which way it will go will depend on how quickly the players can conquer their nerves in these massive games.
- Fortunately, the Red Devils' players have a lot of experience at major clubs throughout Europe, and have played in some big occasions. The players that could lead the side include Vincent Kompany, Daniel Van Buyten, and Thomas Vermaelen. Since these guys all play defense (where experience matters most), they should be able to contain opponents' attacks.
- The forward players have massive potential, though they are rather young. Guys like Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Marouane Fellaini, and Adnan Januzaj could become international superstars. But will that happen this month or in several years?
- Belgium seemingly has a great player fit for every position on the pitch. They have a great balance of size, speed, containment, and goal scoring with their makeup of players. This wonderful squad of players looks great on paper.
Belgium usually is not this great of a soccer team, but the current squad is certainly something special. However, they haven't quite reached their full potential yet. Despite winning most of their qualification games, they often fail to play harmoniously as a team and often get caught ball-watching. Their recent squad has been derided by former coaches as being divas and not the hardest of workers, expecting greatness to simply come to them. Will they be able to come together and fight as a squad, or will their immaturity get the better of them?
Key player: Eden Hazard
The attacking midfielder was dominating as a teenager in France's Ligue 1 before joining Chelsea several years ago. Last season was his best. Hazard scored 17 goals and was voted Chelsea's player of the year. He has consistently been compared to French legend Zinedine Zidane and has usually lived up to the hype. But while his ceiling is endless, he does sometimes disappear in big games and needs to lift his players more. Despite his talent, he hasn't won many trophies at club level.
One to watch: Romelu Lukaku
Big, powerful, fast, and strong, Lukaku has all the ingredients that make up a superstar striker. He can score any sort of goal and has the potential to terrorize a defense. But he is just 21 and has yet to find his home at Chelsea. Recent loan moves have sent him to West Bromwich and Everton where has played very well. However, having scored just 6 international goals, one wonders if his talent is still a bit raw.
Coach: Marc Wilmots
After several coaches failed to corral the young Belgian squad to success, Wilmots seems to have finally gotten things in order. As a former player, Wilmots was a star for Belgium, scoring 28 international goals and playing in three World Cups in the 90s and 2002. His distinguished career took him to several prominent clubs throughout Europe.
Since retiring, he has coached at several clubs before joining the Belgium national team in 2009 as an assistant, eventually earning the head managerial position in 2012.
Belgium uses a 4-2-3-1 system in which the offensive midfielders rotate positions in an effort to confuse defenses. With large players holding down the center of the pitch, they do well at containing attacks.
1930, 1934, 1938, 1954, 1970, 1998 First Round; 1982, 1990, 1994, 2002 Second Round; 1986 Fourth Place.
2014 World Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, on loan from Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Sammy Bossut (Zulte Waregem)
Defenders: Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St Petersburg), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich)
Midfielders: Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Divock Origi (Lille), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg),Nacer Chadli (Tottenham), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham), Steven Defour (Porto), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)
Strikers: Romelu Lukaku (Everton, on loan from Chelsea), Dries Mertens (Napoli)