Belgium: World Cup contenders or pretenders?
Can Eden Hazard & Vincent Kompany lead Belgium to World Cup success
Belgium moved three points clear in their World Cup group after a 2-1 win over Serbia on Friday. Belgium have been dubbed as an upcoming country to make waves within international football.
Despite being recognised by many, the real question is whether Belgium are good enough to compete with the world’s greatest countries?
Belgium have an abundance of talent. It starts all the way at the back as they have two superb goalkeepers fighting for the number one spot. Sunderland keeper, Simon Mignolet has had an outstanding year and produced some top class saves. He has gathered a great amount of transfer attention as Arsenal and Liverpool are fighting for his signature for next season. Also in the contention for the number one spot is Thibaut Courtois. Courtois is only 21 years old but has been performing like a true veteran. After being signed by Chelsea in 2011 he went on loan to Atletico Madrid and led the club to a Europa League title, in addition to a Copa del Rey title by keeping a cleansheet in both matches.
Courtois came out and said he will be staying with Atletico on loan. He also won the Zamora Trophy as he was the goalkeeper with the lowest goals-to-game ratio in La Liga. Courtois got the start ahead of Mignolet in the game against Serbia.
Belgium’s back four has also been impossible to get past as they have given up two goals in seven matches. Leading the Belgium back line is captain Vincent Kompany, who is also captain of Manchester City. Kompany is one of the world’s best centre-backs as he was a huge impact in Manchester City’s 2011-2012 title run.
He is most known for scoring the only goal in the Manchester derby that took Man City above Man United. Kompany is wanted by Bayern Munich and Barcelona, but it looks like he will stay put in Manchester. Another force in the Belgium back four is the other centre-back Daniel Van Buyten. Despite being 35 years old the Bayern Munich player has registered 71 caps for The Red Devils and is still an instrumental part in their World Cup run. In addition to those two, Tottenham player Jan Vertonghen and Ajax’s Toby Alderweireld have also heavily contributed.
On top of having a world class defence, Belgium has a plethora of midfield options. Leading that midfield is Marouane Fellaini. Fellaini scored the second goal in Belgium’s 2-1 victory and has been one of the most important players currently at Everton.
Fellaini is wanted at Manchester United, as former Everton coach David Moyes, wants to be reunited with him. In 31 league appearances, Fellaini bagged 11 goals. Fellaini isn’t the only one that shines in the Belgium midfield as Zenit Saint Petersburg star Axel Witsel always puts in a great performance for his country.
Steven Defour has been having great success with FC Porto and is also a driving force in the high-scoring Belgium midfield.
Defour is 25 years old and is always on the Belgium roster. Another skilful midfielder is Tottenham midfielder Mousa Dembele. Dembele has racked up 49 caps for Belgium as he has been on the team since 2006.
Plus, Nacer Chadli has been a great player for Twente and is a top winger in the Eredivisie. Belgium also has two Chelsea players who never skip a beat.
Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne are two young upcoming midfielders who are set for stardom. Hazard signed for Chelsea last year from Lille and has had a fantastic year with the Blues.
He netted nine goals and gave 11 assists in the league. Hazard is only 22 years old but is making a name for himself.
De Bruyne is another Chelsea player, but was on loan this year at German club Werder Bremen. De Bruyne is 21 years old and is Belgium’s leading scorer this World Cup campaign as he has scored three goals so far.
De Bruyne scored 10 goals in the Bundesliga with Bremen and also gave nine assists. Lastly, Timmy Simons is 36 years old and brings plenty of experience to the team. That is seen as he has 93 caps throughout his Belgium career.
The last part of Belgium is their lethal attack force. Christian Benteke had a phenomenal year with Aston Villa, and as pundits say, he single-handedly kept Aston Villa from getting relegated. 22 year old Benteke scored 19 league goals and is wanted by some of Europe’s best clubs. Benteke isn’t the only youngster from Belgium to be doing some damage in the Premier League.
Romelu Lukaku also had a big year with West Bromwich. Lukaku, who was on loan at West Brom from Chelsea, scored 17 goals as he led The Baggies to a top half finish.
Another player who experienced success in England is Kevin Mirallas. Mirallas played for Everton and scored six goals in his first year of English football.
Lastly, Dries Mertens is another striker who adds to Belgium’s attack force. Mertens scored 16 goals in the Eredivisie as he lead PSV Eindhoven to a second place finish.
One thing that Belgium certainly lacks is experience. The Red Devils missed out on the previous two World Cups and the last three European Championships.
Belgium suffered a 3-1 loss to Germany on the last matchday of qualification for the Euro 2012. Turkey ended up taking the second place spot in the group allowing them to go into the playoffs.
With all that being said, it will be interesting to see if Belgium lives up to their expectations.
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