Only 11 million people live in Belgium. Nevertheless, the small neighbor of Germany is one of the title candidates – and also believes in his own chance.
Kevin de Bruyne, Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen, Thibaut Courtois. These and many other top players adorn the squad of the “Red Devils”. That’s why you can not ignore Belgium when it comes to title candidates for the World Cup. But hardly anyone typed on the team of coach Roberto Martinez. Too big are the doubts that Belgium’s “Golden Generation” manages to call off all its potential at a tournament. But this year’s chance is bigger than ever.
The anticipation increases thanks to strong quality
The coaching bench is headed by Roberto Martinez, who leads the fortunes of Marc Wilmot’s successor. Under the former Schalke, Belgium did not go beyond the quarter-finals at the 2014 World Cup and the European Championship 2016. In both tournaments one was considered a secret favorite, but in the end it was said both times that they needed some more time team. Players like de Bruyne, Lukaku or Carrasco were considered too young and inexperienced.
World Cup forecast by the experts: globetrotter Lutz Pfannenstiel and coach legend Ottmar Hitzfeld are arguing about the World Cup favorites, the player of the tournament and the surprise teams. (Source: t-online.de)
After the EM 2016 Martinez took over – with success. Nine of the ten World Cup qualifiers won Belgium, only against Greece they were points (1-1). With great offensive football de Bruyne and Co. enthused the fans. The anticipation of a successful World Cup rose.
“Some of us belong to the absolute top”
This year, however, the pressure on the “Red Devils” is greater than ever. Many players are in the best “footballer age”. The defensive trio of Jan Vertonghen (31), Vincent Kompany (32) and Toby Alderweireld (29) will probably play together for the last time at a World Cup. Also back-up Thomas Vermaelen (32) is affected.
But the supposed pressure only increases the self-confidence of the Belgians. This also applies to Thorgan Hazard of Borussia Mönchengladbach, who goes to Russia. “It’s going to be difficult, but it’s possible we’ll become world champions, we have the players and the coaching staff for it, some of us play in the best clubs in the world and are in the top of the league,” he told t-online .com.
Thorgan Hazard (r.) Met t-online.de editor Benjamin Zurmühl for a talk in Mönchengladbach. (Source: t-online.de)
Perhaps the best Belgian team ever
For Hazard it is the first World Cup – and then also with his brother Eden. “I’m always happy to be able to play with him, we do not meet so often.” While Eden captains the team to the square, remains for Thorgan rather the Joker role. No problem for the 25-year-old: “It’s a great honor to wear the jersey of Belgium, the feeling is just different, it makes me very proud and I’m finally allowed to play in perhaps the best Belgian national team of all time.”
Unlike 2014, Divock Origi is not included. The striker was lent extra extra from Liverpool to Wolfsburg, in order to get the necessary match practice in the World Cup year. However, it was not enough due to the turbulent season at the Lower Saxony. But over much of the qualification he was a member of the squad of the Belgians, knows the team well.
“On paper, we can beat any team, we just have to put our skills on the pitch, work focused and focused, then there’s a lot for us,” he told t-online.de. One feature in particular could help the World Cup: “Our mentality is often underestimated, we are fighters!”, Emphasized Origi.
Origi (r.) In conversation with t-online.de-editor David-Emanuel Digili. (Source: t-online.de)
“We are among the favorites”
While Belgium failed in the 1980 European Championships only in the final, you never got beyond the quarter-finals at the World Cup. This should succeed this year. Given the feasible group with England, Panama and Tunisia as opponents, the conditions for a successful knockout phase are good. “We are certainly favorites, but I would not consider ourselves a top favorite as other countries have more experience,” says Hazard.
Also Divock Origi sees other countries as top favorites: “Of course, Brazil have a great team, France also, Germany is always one of the top favorites Spain, Portugal, Argentina – and maybe we too,” said Origi with a grin. The “maybe” he can probably delete, because Belgium should have everyone on the slip.