With a host of talented players plying their trade in Europe's top leagues, including the Premier League, should Belgium be considered dark horses to win the 2014 World Cup?
Qualification matches have started to become crucial and the inevitable predictions have followed.
It is to be assumed that these predictions will be predictably predictable. Who can look past all conquering Spain? Lets not rule out Argentina and Brazil, they’re always dangerous. I guess Holland, France, and Italy will get a mention. But who is talking about Belgium?
Over the last few years the Premier League has seen an influx of Belgian stars coming to ply their trade here in England. Now we have a plethora of top class players, star names at top clubs who all represent the Belgium national team. They have a squad of players who can rightly claim to be as strong a group as any other in international football.
Let's look at their squad for the latest World Cup qualifiers. Their top two goalkeepers are the impressive Sunderland stopper Simon Mignolet and one of the best young keepers in the world, Thibaut Courtois.
In defence Belgium can boast three of the Premier League's top centre-backs in Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen as well as top European defenders Daniel van Buyten, Toby Alderweireld and Nicolas Lombaerts. This is a fearsome collection of defensive prowess. There aren’t too many teams across the world who have this standard of defenders.
Further forward Belgium don’t get any weaker, with the Premier League prevalent again. Tottenham's Moussa Dembele, Everton duo Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini and Chelsea pair Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne are just some of the stars of the Belgium midfield and wings. Add to this the talent of Dries Mertens, the rising star Steven Defour, and one of the best midfielders in the world in Axel Witsel and Belgium are again frighteningly strong in this area.
When capped off by Premier League powerhouses Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke in attack, why aren’t more people looking at Belgium and asking whether they could threaten in Brazil next summer?
Perhaps the reason is that they seem to have underachieved recently with such a strong squad of players. Belgium missed out on Euro 2012 qualification to Germany and Turkey, which was a big failure by former coach Georges Leekens and his team.
Marc Wilmots took charge in May 2012 and Belgium are faring much better in their quest to reach the 2014 World Cup. They currently sit top of their group, level on points with Croatia and looking guaranteed at least a play-off place. You’d back Belgium to reach Brazil, and so once in the mix they must be taken seriously.
While their lack of experience and poor recent history will count against them, Belgium are a side packed full of quality. They possess a squad as good on paper as any other and if it all clicks for them they could be a challenger in 2014.
They will not be one of the favourites, but don’t be surprised if Belgium feature in the latter stages of World Cup 2014.
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