Belgium currently sits in a lowly 53rd in FIFA’s world rankings, below Libya, Iran, Estonia and Peru.
Yet are we on the precipice of a Belgian revolution ?
After Marouane Fellaini’s starring performance for Everton over Manchester United and the continued improvements of talents such as Dries Mertens, Mouusa Dembele and Eden Hazard what can this nation achieve and how can the Premier League be helping them get there?
Belgium is blessed with 2 highly talented young goalkeepers in the form of Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet and Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois. Mignolet forced Craig Gordon and Kieran Westwood aside as the undisputed stopper at the Stadium of Light. Now Belgium’s number 1 he has great support from Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois. He is on loan at Athletico Madrid for a second season running after a magnificent campaign in 2011-12, culminating in Europe League glory.
First and foremost there is the captain of the Premier League champions and the captain of Arsenal amongst their ranks. Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen would forge a formidable centre back partnership and with both being 26 there best is yet to come.
Axel ‘The Axman’ Witsl has earned his nickname for more than just the obvious link to his forename with his aggressive, snappy and hard style of play in holding midfield. Gaby Mudingayi also fills this role and the recent Inter Milan recruit appears to be a late bloomer.
Maraoune Fellaini and Steven Defour are only 24 years old. The former is developing into one of Europe’s best centre midfield operators and the latter, currently with Porto, is a reported long time admiration of Sir Alex Ferguson. The midfield talent doesn’t stop there with Dries Mertens and Moussa Dembele also in the arsenal. Aged just 25 these 2 versatile players have been headhunted by Europe’s best after catching the eye in the last 2 seasons.
Recent Everton recruit Kevin Mirallas is 24, a bag of tricks with goalscoring pedigree. Romelu Lukaku is one of Europe’s brightest striking talents, with a chance to shine this season on loan at West Brom. Another Chelsea loanee in Belgium’s future plans will be Kevin De Bruyne who has developed into a tricky and incisive wingman.
Christian Benteke scored his first international goal during the 4-2 humbling of the Dutch recently and has formidable goalscoring records at club and youth international level whilst FC Twente’s Nacer Chadli, 22, Genk’s Jelle Vossen,23, and RCD Mallorca’s Marvin Ogunjimi, 24, are also threats.
But the real jewel in the Belgian crown is Eden Hazard. He is expected to become the talisman in a resurgent Belgium side and with his combination of speed, technique, passing ability the future is bright for the 21 year old Chelsea recruit.
Belgium’s biggest problem is who and what to play with this super talented crop of players. They are also drawn in the Group of Death for 2014 World Cup qualification along with Croatia, Serbia, Scotland, Macedonia and Wales; with no easy games in the offing they will have to perform consistently in order to progress.
Here is how they could line up at the 2014 World Cup if they qualified, with their 2014 respected age attached.
Gillet (30) Kompany (28) Vermaelen (28) Vertonghen (27)
Witsl (25) Fellaini (26)
Mertens (27) Hazard (23) Dembele (27)
De Bruyne (23)
Could this side achieve greatness and with most of the team still together in 2016, could the European Championship’s be an even likelier avenue for success?