Belgium set for World Cup glory?

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When we think of Belgium, a number of wonderful images spring to mind. 

The Belgians produce arguably the best chocolate in the world, coupled with their world-class waffles. The refreshing beer Stella Artois originates from this small, cosy nation nestled in between France, Austria, Luxembourg and Germany, along with the alluring sounds of the saxophone and French fries (despite the name).

But unfortunately, until recently, Belgium have been the perennial under-achievers of European football - always involved in a valiant attempt to qualify for the World Cup or the European Championships, but ultimately coming up short. Indeed, despite being runners up at the 1980 European Championships and finishing in 4th place at the World Cup in 1986, no-one really considers Belgium as a footballing nation.

Belgium have failed to qualify for a major tournament since succumbing to Brazil in the second round of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. Following the retirement of star player Marc Wilmots, Belgian football has fallen into somewhat of a lapse.

But now, the dormant volcano which epitomised Belgian football has erupted, for a golden generation of Belgian footballers has emerged from the shadows and is ready to conquer world football. Arguably the most talented Belgian side ever produced is gearing up for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. And boy, watch out for the 'Diables Rouges'.

Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Marouane Fellaini, Axel Witsel, Moussa Dembélé, Toby Alderweireld, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, Thibaut Courtois, Thomas Vermaelen, Christian Benteke, the list goes on. These players are worshipped by their fans and coveted by many of the top clubs in Europe.

With an average squad age of just 25-years-old for their 2-1 friendly success over Slovakia on Wednesday evening, brought up considerably by veterans Timmy Simons, Daniel Van Buyten and goalkeeper Jean-Francois Gillet, this represents one of the finest and youngest squads worldwide.

This is a squad which possesses attacking flair in the form of Hazard, Mertens, Kevin De Bruyne and Lukaku, defensive fortitude with Kompany, Vermaelen, Vertonghen and Alderweireld, and is littered with some of the best passers of a football in the modern game such as Fellaini, Dembélé, Steven Defour and Witsel. 

And let's not forget that they have the young Atlético Madrid shot-stopper Thibaut Courtois (on loan from Chelsea) keeping goal, who is more than ready to challenge Petr Cech as the Blue's first-choice keeper when he returns from his stint in Spain.

Belgium are very much 'sleeping giants' and it's time for them to realise their vast potential. 

The team currently sit top of group A in the World Cup 2014 qualifying stages, with 10 points from four matches. Croatia are second on goal difference, with both teams six points clear of Serbia and Macedonia in third and fourth respectively. This represents the best chance the Belgians have had in years to make it to the World Cup, and they must grasp it with both hands.

This Belgian side must be treated with caution, for a FIFA world ranking of 20 is an injustice to a team who can sweep aside anyone on their day. That said, Brazil are currently ranked 18th, so the validity of FIFA's ranking system comes under question somewhat. 

If Belgium can make it to Brazil in 2014, and they really should be able to as a minimum, it should be the opportunity to announce themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps then, football will become as synonymous with Belgium as chocolate, waffles and Stella?

Only time will tell. 


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Thomas Vermaelen
Romelu Lukaku
Vincent Kompany
Moussa Dembele
Marouane Fellaini

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