England and Italy may have been knocked out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil at the first hurdle, but it is Marc Wilmots’ Belgium side that have underachieved the most in South America.
For many the pre-tournament favourites, the Red Devils failed to hit top gear all tournament with their initial four victories masking sub-par performances and implying them to be better than what they actually were.
Star striker Romelu Lukaku, long linked with a move away from parent club Chelsea after loan spells at West Bromwich Albion and Everton, failed to endear himself to any possible suitors, finding the net just once in five games, against the USA in the round of 16.
Such poor form will only have increased the feelings of wonderment as to what could have been had Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke not suffered an injury that ruled him out of the finals back in April.
Marouane Fellaini is another whose club future is shrouded in uncertainty, but despite scoring against Algeria produced little to show Louis Van Gaal that he is deserving of a second chance at Manchester United.
David Moyes brought the Belgian to Old Trafford last summer from Everton for an eye-watering £27million, but the quality of his performances mean recouping the majority of that transfer fee back are remote.
Vincent Kompany enjoyed a stellar season for Manchester City, but toiled in the colours of his country as Gonzalo Higuain proved too hot to handle during Belgium’s 1-0 loss to Argentina on Saturday afternoon.
Lionel Messi was another who ensured the defender suffer a miserable afternoon, constantly pressing and probing before playing a key contribution in Higuain’s goal was an exquisite piece of skill.
Eden Hazard was meant to be one of the stars of the tournament given his form under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, but flattered to deceive and left the finals without scoring once.
He, like many of his team-mates, looked overawed by the occasion and will instead have to focus on securing their place in the European Championships in two years time.
His club team-mate Thibaut Courtois was, of all the players, a shining light. He was at his best against Argentina, thwarting Messi but his contribution ultimately proved fruitless.
Their future remains in safe hands, with the likes of Courtois, Lukaku and Hazard all facing many years of international football ahead of them. United’s Adnan Januzaj is another who could shine at future showpieces.
Wilmots is a strong character and will not let the disappointment of 2014 blight the future. Belgium’s golden generation remains just that, and could win the tournament in Russia in four years time.
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