No trophies to show for Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ despite all the talent at its disposal
2014: First real chance
Belgium qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after topping their group which included Croatia. This was the first time Belgium played at a World Cup fin 12 years. The Red Devils were drawn against Algeria, Russia and South Korea for the group stage. The Belgium squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup included then-Chelsea winger Eden Hazard and now-former Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany. Belgium impressed in Brazil, reaching the 2014 World Cup quarterfinal. That is where their dream came to an end after losing to Argentina 1-0.
Marc Wilmots lead Belgium to the quarterfinal of 2014 World Cup and was successful in achieving qualification for 2016 UEFA European Championship finals in France. They went to world number one in the FIFA rankings before the 2016 Euros began. The Belgian squad was extremely strong for the 2016 Euros which included twelve players from the Premier League.
They were devastated to lose to Wales in the quarterfinal of with been number one in the world. The Belgian FA considered quarterfinal elimination at both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euros a failure as they sacked Wilmots shortly after their defeat to Wales.
The former Everton boss Roberto Martinez was appointed manager in 2016. The Spaniard appointed 1998 World Cup winner and 2003/2004 Premier League champion Thierry Henry as assistant manager. Striker Romelu Lukaku went into the 2018 FIFA World Cup in good form after scoring 16 Premier League goals with Manchester United in 2017/2018 season.
Belgium was drawn against England, Tunisia and Panama, topping the group on nine points. The Red Devils would go on to reach the semifinals of that World Cup, beating Brazil 3-2 in the quarterfinals. It ended up being more heartache for them as they lost 1-0 to eventual winners France. They finished third after beating England once more – this time in the playoff – but was disappointed that they didn’t make it to the final.
Kevin De Bruyne holds the record for the most assists for a Manchester City player of all time with 96 and was a big part of Belgium’s squad for Euro 2020. Lukaku was going into the delayed 2020 Euros in great form after scoring 24 goals in the Serie A with Inter Milan in 2020/2021 season. Belgium didn’t perform to their normal standard as they were dumped out against Italy at the quarterfinal of Euro 2020. Martinez was lucky to not lose his job after Euro 2020.
Belgium was going into the 2022 FIFA World Cup with first choice striker Lukaku injured. De Bruyne is still in his prime but Belgium was pinning their World Cup hopes on the Man City star. Central defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld have both been exceptional especially under Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur. However, they are both short for pace as they come to the end of their careers.
Eden Hazard scored 85 goals with Chelsea but it is time for Belgium to go on without him as he has struggled since joining Real Madrid in 2019. Some of their stars were having pot shots at players in the media before hand which included De Bruyne saying “it was four years too late for Belgium.”
First two matches
Belgium was absolutely terrible in their first 2022 World Cup group stage game against Canada. The pace of Alphonso Davies caused nightmares for the Belgian defenders and they were very fortunate to win 1-0. Lukaku was back in the squad for Belgium’s second game against Morocco. The North Africans were well drilled with outstanding defensive performances of both Romain Saïss and Nayef Aguerd. Belgium only had four shots on target but were outplayed and outclassed in losing 2-0 to Morocco.
Against Croatia, a win was needed for the Belgians to ensure progression. Lukaku came on for the second half as they were still in search of a goal. The substitute came close on multiple efforts but couldn’t find the back of the net. The game ended in a draw which meant Croatia went through in second place on five points at the expense of Belgium’s four.
That marked the end of the road for Belgium as they finished in third, with Martinez leaving his role as manager. Lukaku is a handful but has failed in the Premier League over the years with both Chelsea and Man United. A lot of pressure and expectation on Belgium as golden generation but looks like they will ever be successful by winning a trophy at a major competition with their ‘golden generation’.