For the past five years, international football has been dominated by Spain, a team that contains the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas. After winning the European Championship in 2008, they won the 2010 World Cup and another European Championship this time last year.
But all of Spain’s key players from 2008 onwards are slowly ageing. Key midfielders Iniesta, Xavi and Alonso are 29, 33 and 31 respectively. Star strikers Fernando Torres and David Villa are 29 and 31 and centre back Carles Puyol is now 35-years-old
Admittedly, the Spanish U21s won the European Championship in the summer, but it is unlikely Spain can replace all of these great players. So which team are expected to replace Spain as the kings of international football?
Belgium could be that team. Their current squad consists of players in their 20s and playing at the highest level for their respective clubs. A couple of the players in Belgium's side could walk straight into any Premier League team at the moment, and that is no exaggeration.
Let's start off with the goalkeeper. Belgium, like many World Cup winning sides from the past, have two great 'keepers in their ranks. These are Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois and Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet. Both are extremely talented in their position but obviously Belgium can have only one goalkeeper.
Their current number one is 21-year-old Courtois and it is probably the correct choice. Mignolet is a great goalkeeper but Courtois is still young and will only get better. He is rumoured to be a transfer target for Spanish giants Barcelona but he is likely to be Chelsea’s first choice in a couple of years.
The defence is arguably the best defence in the world. At right-back, Toby Alderweireld is the first choice and at centre-back, Belgium have Premier League duo Vincent Kompany, who is also the captain, and Jan Vertonghen. These two are regarded by many to be among the top defenders in the world so Belgium are unlikely to concede many.
Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen is usually used at left-back, showing further signs of how strong this current team is.
Moving onto the midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation, in my personal strongest side, I would have new Manchester United signing Marouane Fellaini and Tottenham playmaker Mousa Dembele in the holding midfield, heading balls on and supplying passes to the forward line. Zenit star Axel Witsel could also play here and will rival these two for a place in the team.
The three attacking-midfield roles have great depth. Starting with the left and the only definite in this young, talented Belgium midfield, we have Eden Hazard. The key player for this side at just 22, he is expected to play a part in all of Belgium’s attacks at next year’s World Cup. He is expected to become one of the best players in Europe soon and every team that wants to win things needs a player like him.
The central-attacking midfield spot would, in my opinion, go to Hazard’s Chelsea teammate Kevin de Bruyne. He is also expected to be a big player in this team and the Chelsea team. On the right, I think fellow Premier League star Kevin Mirallas should be the first choice. He has impressed in his short time at Everton and he adds more pace to this counter-attacking team.
Other players who could play in this midfield are Tottenham new boy Nacer Chadli, PSV winger Dries Mertens and Porto star Steven Defour.
The two strikers vying for the centre-forward role are Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke. The two of them scored 36 Premier league goals between them last season so Belgium are spoilt for choice here. I cannot decide between these two so I think the rotational system will be used for this position next year.
So, I conclude by saying what a great team Belgium have at the moment. If they can keep this squad fit, I am sure by the time next year’s world cup comes along, they will be genuine contenders.
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: http://gms.to/130seMa
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.