Belgium's 'Golden Generation' under pressure to shine at Euro 2016

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Up until March the Belgium national team were ranked the best in the world according to FIFA. Although they have now been pipped to the top spot by Argentina, the Red Devils still go into Euro 2016 as outside favourites to win the competition.

After only reaching the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup and being placed in this summer's Group of Death, Belgium's so-called 'Golden Generation' is in danger of failing to reach their full potential.

It is fair to say Belgium have some of Europe's most talented footballers at their disposal. However, at the World Cup there was an obvious lack of chemistry as they staggered through their group and round of 16 fixtures. Their performances were clinical, but lacklustre and an extra time goal saved them from and embarrassing exit to the United States.


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Many expressed their disappointment at Belgium's lack of flair, as they seemingly looked to get over the line and grind out results. So why does one of the world's most talented teams, possessing some of the most eye-catching stars failing to impress? And can they shrug off the criticism from two years ago by winning Euro 2016?

If their performances since the World Cup are anything to go by, then we can expect to see a much-improved team this summer. The 2014/15 season, in particular, belonged to Belgium's stars.

Eden Hazard won both the Premier League and PFA Player of the Year with Chelsea. Wolfsburg's Kevin De Bruyne broke Bundesliga assist records and Romelu Lukaku was the Europa League's joint top scorer.

Last season saw the emergence of yet more Belgium talent. The most exciting prospect being Michy Batshuayi. The Marseille forward scored 23 goals in his second season in France and also has found the back of the net in both of his appearances for Belgium.

Yannick Carrasco is another who has made a name for himself after a big money move and a successful campaign in Spain, The winger scored Atletico Madrid's equalising goal in their Champions League final loss to Real Madrid and his performances has seen him trump regular Kevin Mirallas to a spot in Belgium's squad.

Where as Vincent Kompany missing the Euros through injury would have initially been judged as disastrous, the emergence of Jason Denayer and the ever improving Toby Alderweireld mean Belgium's defence remains in safe hands.

The Belgian's qualified in impressive form, winning eight of their 10 qualifying games, scoring 26 goals in the process and despite suffering a torrid season with his club, Eden Hazard provided five of them.

In recent friendlies, Marc Wilmots' side were again under pressure to impress. Narrowly defeating Norway 3-2 and drawing 1-1 with Finland were not the results the Belgian fans would have hoped for and have raised a few eyebrows again ahead of the Euros.

Belgium lacked a consistent goal scorer in Brazil and that burden will upon Romelu Lukaku this summer. The striker has so far failed to replicate his club form in a red shirt, scoring only 12 times in 44 appearances.

This season Lukaku has enjoyed the best form of his career for Everton - netting 25 times in all competitions and becoming the first Everton player to do so since Gary Lineker in 1986.

The 23-year-old has scored in his last two international appearances, raising expectations ahead of perhaps the biggest tournament of his career but Belgium will need Lukaku at his best in order to progress in France.

Belgium are in a much stronger position than they were two years ago. Wilmots and his squad are more experienced, battle-hardened and familiar with each other.

They will relish the underdog tag and will almost certainly be more attacking than two years ago - making them a very dangerous threat.

They are arguably in the competition's toughest group, which also include Italy, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland. If they win their group then with the momentum gathered and raw talent within their squad they could well go all the way.

The Golden Generation may have failed to shine in Rio, but they have been well polished since then and will unquestionably catch the eye this summer.

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Euro 2016
Premier League
Marouane Fellaini
Eden Hazard
Romelu Lukaku

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