Plucked from obscurity for £7 million, Christian Benteke has lit up the Premier League this season for Aston Villa and has been the only spark of light in a struggling team.
A player who effectively bullies the defenders tasked to mark him out of the game, Benteke is a veritable giant of a man who, unlike many other target-men, has a good turn of pace and is able to take on a man and beat him with his dribbling skills.
However, he is no mere target-man. He can play the role of poacher and that of the simple out-and-out forward, and he has essentially been playing a combination of these roles at Villa this season.
Amazingly, despite being 22, he has coped easily with the weight of the pressure heaped upon him.
This current squad of Belgian players is known as the golden generation, and this seems clear to see with the team simply bursting with talent, particularly in midfield, where several top-class Premier League players play. The vast majority of these players will be reaching their prime come the 2014 World Cup, which they are en route to qualify for, and the 2016 Euros.
Their issues before this point has lain with the national team’s mismanagement firstly, and secondly, with Belgium’s lack of a mature, recognised striker. This second issue looks to have been solved by the emergence of Benteke, whose pace, power and panache should allow him to fit seamlessly into a line-up stuffed with stars.
The first-team place nailed down by Romelu Lukaku this season is also an exciting prospect for Belgium.
Eden Hazard of Chelsea and Kevin Mirallas of Everton should demonstrate the talent of the midfield providing for the solitary striker in the formation that is generally used by the current manager.
Hazard is also a central attacking midfielder, allowing him to be used as both an out-and-out winger and also an inside forward to support Benteke through the middle and provide a few goals from the wing.
This is also possible with Mirallas who could be played as an outside forward, taking the part of the goal-scoring pressure off Benteke’s broad shoulder.
Another factor that will help Belgium enormously is that three of their main midfielders came through the Standard Liege academy in the same year and played first-team football together for a while.
These are Marouane Fellaini, Steven Defour and Axel Witsel, now plying their trade in different countries, but the understanding they will have garnered between each other remains.
Their strength in depth in all positions, possibly aside from full backs, should surely allow them to go far in international competition and these emerging strikers have completed their team. Benteke’s form has heralded the completion of the golden generation team.
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