Belgium came into the 2014 FIFA World Cup as dark horses to lift the trophy. Boasting some of the best known –and richly talented – squads in world football, Marc Wilmots’ side were expected to shine, to entertain, to dominate, to conquer – at least to a certain degree.
For what more could you ask of a team which happens to be one of the few in Brazil blessed in every playing department; world class goalkeepers, brawny defense, skilful midfield and a potent front line. In between the posts for the Red Devils are two world class keepers, Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet. The latter is a UEFA Champions League finalist and a La Liga winner, the former, a consistent performer for Premier League side Liverpool and a goalkeeper that could easily take the No. 1 spot in any team at the World Cup.
The talent still runs through the defence. Captain Vincent Kompany is a no nonsense performer, bullish and inspirational. The Manchester City defender couldn’t have asked for better company than vice-captain Thomas Vermaleen or Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen with Atletico Madrid’s Toby Alderweireld and Bayern Munich’s Daniel Van Buyten (the only survivor of Belgium’s 23 players in the 2002 World Cup) capable characters who can easily fill the fullback positions.
However, it is the midfield and attack that makes this Belgium team look even more menacing to established World Cup teams. Axel Witsel, Steven Defour, Mousa Dembele and Maroune Fellaini are established internationals capable of mixing it up with the best.
The likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin Mirallas, Dries Mertens and the powerful if not bully Romelu Lukaku are world beaters. Adnan Januzaj and Kenyan-born Divock Origi are both only 19 years but look like they have the world at their feet.
With such a strong line up, the Western Europe side were expected to roll over their Group H opponents Algeria, Russia and Korea Republic. However, they struggled against Algeria in their World Cup opener going a goal behind after 25 minutes through a Sofiane Feghouli penalty. They struggled to break open the North Africans until the 70th minute, substitute Marouane Fellaini heading in the equalizer before Dries Mertens’ sublime strike secured them the points.
It was an unconvincing performance.
In their second game, they faced Fabio Capello’s Russia. The Italian coach is a world-renowned defensive tactician. You can’t get easy victories against his side. You must work for it. Belgium never looked like they would get the three points out of the game. They were clueless, predictable, dull, and poor. Russia knocked and knocked but lacked cutting edge when they needed it most.
In all honesty, that was the worst game so far in the World Cup.
But so it was written, and so it had to be done. When it looked like the game would end in a drab draw, Eden Hazard produced one moment of magic, the Chelsea winger dancing around the Russians defence before squaring for young Origi to score an undeserved winner. The goal not only won the match for them but sent them through to the next round.
Their last assignment will be against South Korea, a match they are expected to win with Germany, USA or Ghana their likely opponents in the last 16.
However, with performances lacking energy as the ones they have shown in two games so far, Belgium’s golden generation might not reach the heights of the 1986 team that reached the semi finals in Mexico.
They may just exit at the knockout stage and live to fight another day.
And That's thesteifmastertake!!