Despite having little international success in the past, the Belgium national team are set to make their mark at the World Cup this summer. The Red Devils have been placed in Group G along with England, Tunisia, and Panama. With an impressive qualifying record, this group seems to be rather favorable for the Red Devils. The team’s last defeat was a 3-1 loss in July 2016 against Wales in the quarterfinals of Euro 2016, since then the team has performed consistently well under the stint of Roberto Martinez who incidentally joined the team in August 2016.
Belgium World Cup Preview
The One to Eleven:
Belgium hasn’t always had the team of the dreams historically but the scenario has changed somewhat drastically in the last decade or so, with the infusion of special talents, in particular, Chelsea duo Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois. The Red Devils now have a very balanced team with the perfect blend of youth and experience. Martinez generally prefers the 4-2-3-1 formation which also changes in 3-5-2 depending on the speed and intensity of the game.
The number 1 custodian Thibaut Courtois, has over 70 caps for Belgium and is being counted as one of the best in the world, the back line is the most experienced part of the team formed by Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen and Thomas Meunier. The back four provides the stability and discipline to the team. Alderweireld and Vermaelen form the two center halves while Vertonghen and Meunier marshall the wings of deference.
Martinez is likely to go with a midfield duo of Spurs’ Moussa Dembele and Roma’s Radja Naingollan, this could form the perfect pivot for the team. While Dembele can sit back and provide safety for the back four, Naingollan, on the other hand, is an excellent box to box option for Martinez. This midfield duo also provides a tremendous amount of versatility and their roles can very easily be reversed or altered. PFA player of the year favorite, Kevin de Bruyne in the attacking midfield position could provide the attacking creativity going forward. De Bruyne will be a crucial part of this team, if he can supply the lethal attack the Red Devils have, we could see them humiliate the other teams.
For the final third, brace yourselves, Eden Hazard. Romelu Lukaku. Dries Mertens. The attacking firepower Martinez has at his disposal is obscene. Three of Europe’s most inform players at the moment could do serious damage in Russia. It is expected that Hazard plays in his natural left wing position, with Mertens on the opposite flank and Belgium’s all-time top goal scorer, Romelu Lukaku leading the line.
As far as the bench is considered, Belgium can boast a pretty decent bench, Simon Mignolet could replace Courtois, in the event of injury or other unforeseen circumstances. Vincent Kompany, the veteran will be taken for his experience and in times of trouble, he will be available to slot into Belgian’s backline.
In the midfield, Martinez will have the choice of Marouane Fellaini or Axel Witsel, however, the caliber of their current midfield will be hard to break into for other players.
Similarly to the midfield, the attack is another region where it seems evident that the front line is essentially decided. However, if Martinez is looking to change tactics up he will have the choices of Christian Benteke, Michy Batshuayi, and Kevin Miralles.
Martinez is one of the most experienced managers as far the Premier League is considered, however in the international scenario this is his first stint ever. His cameo at Everton was his best in the recent times, in the 2013-2014 season Everton finished 5th, however, the same feat couldn’t be repeated in the subsequent years. Martinez is known for his goal scoring substitutions at the right time of the game, at his term at Everton, he had made quite a few numbers of magical substitutions to pull the game out of defeat.
Style of Play:
Belgium has always maintained fluidic football as there genre, with the wing backs pacing up and down the field. The midfield features a good mix of holding and creative talents to feed balls into the final third. As per the situation of the game the formations switch from 4-2-3-1 to 3-5-2 if the team is in dire need of some last moment aggressiveness. Lukaku and Hazard would move up front. Dembele drops back to the defensive role, Naingollan, and de Bruyne to occupy the central role, while Mertens and Hazard control the wings.
The team should most definitely top Group G, England being the only other real competitor the group, the team definitely has the capability of reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup this year.
Leave a comment below as to how you think Belgium will do in Russia this summer. Come back tomorrow where we will take a closer look at how England may fair in the World Cup.
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