Ten players from the English Premier League have been named in the Belgium squad for their 2014 World Cup qualifier against Scotland at Hampden Park on September 6. The large nucleus of players based in England’s top-flight helps to illustrate the current revolution in Belgian football as they have transformed themselves into a potential superpower of world football.
Chelsea trio Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne are joined by Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke, Everton duo Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas as well as Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele and Nacer Chadli of Tottenham.
In addition to these already established Premier League stars, the squad also includes Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who is on loan from Chelsea, Axel Witsel (Zenit St. Petersburg) and Toby Alderweireld (Ajax) with the latter having recently been attracting interest from Premier League club Liverpool. Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany and Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen are both unavailable due to injury.
There are also a number of young Belgians registered to Premier League clubs including Eden Hazard’s younger brother Thorgan, who is currently on loan at Belgian side S.V. Zulte Waregem from Chelsea. Other notable prospects include Manchester City defender Dedryck Boyata and Adnan Januzaj, who has impressed in pre-season for Manchester United. The future of Belgian football appears to be in a very healthy state.
Belgium have become many people’s dark horses for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and are currently sitting at the top of their qualifying group. Throughout the qualification campaign so far, Belgium have shown strong signs of developing into a truly great side and are unbeaten in their seven qualifiers to date with six victories. They are three points ahead of Croatia with three matches to play and a win in Scotland would go a long way to securing their place at next summer’s World Cup finals.
The influx of Belgian footballers to the Premier League has understandably created a large amount of hype around the Belgian national side in Britain. The current crop of players are an extremely talented and youthful bunch and have inevitably been labelled as Belgium’s “golden generation” – a tag that many England football supporters will be well aware of. It is highly impressive for such a small nation to produce such a great pool of footballing talent and the framework is now in place for Belgium to achieve qualification to their first major championships in over a decade.
Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels (Hoffenheim), Thibaut Courtois (Athletico Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Ajax), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Guillaume Gillet (Anderlecht), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St. Petersburg), Sebastien Pocognoli (Hanover 96), Daniel van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Jelle van Damme (Standard Liege), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
Midfielders: Nacer Chadli (Tottenham), Steven Defour (Porto), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham), Marouane Fellaini (Everton), Timmy Simmons (Club Bruges), Axel Witsel (Zenit St. Petersburg)
Forwards: Zakaria Bakkali (PSV), Christian Benteke (Aston Villa), Kevin de Bruyne (Chelsea), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Romelu Lukaku (Cheslea), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Kevin Mirallas (Everton)
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