Belgium’s golden generation is running out of time


The boys from Brussels are the world’s top-ranked football team, have two quality players for each position on the field are coached by a very underrated Roberto Martinez.

Belgium made light work of qualifying for the tournament, going undefeated and plundering 40 goals – with a squeaky tight defence only letting in three.

Most fans in the world could pick their starting XI, as Martinez likes to generally deploy the same team. They’ll line up in an attacking 3-4-3 formation for offence, with the two wide players funneling back to make it a back five when they are defending.

This Belgium team doesn’t have many weaknesses, but opposition teams will be looking to exploit them through the central defenders.

Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelen all are the wrong side of 30 and have been found this season at club level to be susceptible against attackers with raw pace.

They are not mobile or agile enough to keep up with the faster players and will rely heavily on being able to sniff out the danger before it happens.

Perhaps the hardest decision for Martinez will be who to choose from his star-studded central midfield – with multiple players under injury clouds and form concerns.

Martinez’s favoured central midfielder is Axel Witsel, who is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon earlier this year. He is making great progress and should hopefully play some part in this tournament.

Kevin de Bruyne received facial fractures in the disappointing Champions League final loss to Chelsea, but Martinez doesn’t expect that to keep him out of the team. How De Bruyne deals with this injury and possible discomfort with a protective mask is anyone’s guess.

Then there is the Eden Hazard problem.

For several years, Hazard was one of the finest midfielders in Europe and a host of clubs were after him towards the end of his Chelsea spell. Once he got his dream move to Real Madrid, however, his world came crashing down.

From reporting to preseason training several kilograms overweight, playing poorly, constantly being injured, a reported bust-up with fans and his manager – Hazard had a year from hell. It culminated in a savage attack by the Spanish press, when Hazard was caught on camera laughing and smiling with all his ex-Chelsea teammates after they knocked Real Madrid out of the Champions League.

Hazard will be thankful to be with his Belgium teammates after a tough season in Spain. He feels comfortable and the smile had returned to his face.

Going through their squad, they have one of the world’s best goalkeepers in Thibaut Courtois and a solid supporting cast of midfielders in Yannick Carrasco, Leander Dendoncker, Thorgan Hazard, Thomas Meunier and Youri Tielemans to go with the aforementioned superstars.

The forward line boasts Michy Batshuayi, Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens and Jeremy Duku.

Doku is primed to be their breakout star this tournament. The 19-year-old a winger boasts lighting pace and tricky dribbling that can make a defender’s life miserable.

His form with Anderlecht saw a slew of the continent’s biggest clubs interested in his signature.

In a surprising move, Rennes sealed the deal for €26 million. France’s Ligue 1 can be a steep learning curve for talented wingers and Doku struggled initially, before starting to find his groove by the end of the season.

Belgium should be looking to crack double figures in goals in their easy group, before marching all the way to the title.

They are the number one team in the world for a reason and, for many players, this will be there last ever international tournament.

This is the fabled golden generation of Belgium’s best chance to collect a major trophy.


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