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Belgium: World Cup contenders

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With two games of World Cup qualification remaining Belgium need just one point from their next game against Croatia to ensure their place in Brazil next summer.

Qualification for 2014 would be Belgium's first since 2002 and would represent a landmark in the international careers of a youthful side graced with star names.

Belgium boast a squad brimming with quality and the potential for growth with players such as Eden Hazard, Romelu Lakaku, Christian Benteke, Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne all still shy of their 23rd birthdays. The side is only going to improve in the coming years.

Couple this youthful exuberance with the defensive solidity of Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen and add to the equation of a midfield boasting the likes of Axl Witsel, Mousa Dembele and Maraoune Fellaini and Belgium have a very impressive squad.

Belgium manager Marc Wilmots has seen massive improvements made by his young side in recent times. The side have moved up dramatically in the FIFA world rankings moving up from 40th in 2012 to a all time high of 6th this year. Perform in Brazil and the Belgium national sides star could  rise further still.

The team is not amongst the top contenders for the World cup yet but the side will certainly be one of the dark horses of the competition next summer should they secure qualification. How then have a team of world beaters emerged from a nation that previously flattered to deceive on the big stage?

Belgium have unearthed for want of a better term a golden generation and it would appear there has been little planning put into it and this certainly requires a certain amount of luck.

The only real sign of a reinvention similar to that the English FA has recently embarked on came in 2002. shortly after Belgium were knocked out of the World Cup in the last 16 by Brazil. The Belgian FA informed clubs that staff would need higher levels of coaching qualifications and also made all national team age groups play a pressing 4-3-3 style formation. This decision has undoubtedly allowed the current crop of internationals to develop into a team that plays with purpose and a clear footballing philosophy.

Perhaps however the most important aspect of Belgium's emergence as a force to be reckoned with is young players heading abroad to learn their craft. In the squad named
to face Croatia and Wales only three of the 25 man roster ply their trade in the Belgium Pro League. On top of that the fact that the Belgium based players make up three of the five players in the squad aged 28 or older represents a changing of the guard in the Belgium national side.

In stark contrast 12 members of the squad currently play for Premier League sides. This has led to a team full of power and pace with players who compete in one of the  toughest leagues in the world running through the core of the team. Despite their age many of these players such as Eden Hazard have played in various European leagues allowing them to develop a wider footballing knowledge. A squad full of players versed in the ways of premier league mixed with  players from all of Europe's top leagues creates a team that on their day could match the worlds best.

Over the years the rigorous nature of the Premier league has been the diagnosis of multiple English Word Cup autopsies. "They're the least fresh of any of the competing national sides, because their league does not have a break," were the words of Fabio Capello speaking in July 2013.

The Belgium FA may have to deal with a similar issue with their premier league core, Belgium's quality however may show that the fatigue argument is a myth.

How far Belgium can go in Brazil 2014 may be determined by the conditions with no European teams having won the tournament in South America. What is for sure is that regardless of Belgium's display in Brazil they are a team on the up and one that is here to stay.

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World Cup
Football
Belgium Football

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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.

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