The Red Devils from Belgium were the first European side to officially qualify for next summer’s World Cup. That’s not necessarily because they’re the best European team but because their group was an absolute walk in the park, Greece finished a massive nine points behind them in second. As we head towards Russia 2018, this Belgium team will be hyped up beyond belief because of their golden generation. As of yet, they haven’t fulfilled their potential in either of the last two major tournaments but who knows, maybe Marouane Fellaini can fire them to glory this time around.
How did they qualify?
Far too easily. Greece, Bosnia, Estonia, Cyprus and Gibraltar all failed to provide any competition for Belgium and they finished top of their group and failed to win just one game – a 1-1 draw at home to Greece.
Who will I recognise?
The large majority of the squad play their football in the Premier League so, unless you live under a rock there’s a good chance you’ll see a few familiar faces. Their talisman is Chelsea forward Eden Hazard and we all know how good he is when he’s at his best. If Vincent Kompany is absent next summer (there’s probably more chance of Daniel Van Buyten making a comeback than Kompany playing at the World Cup) then Hazard will captain the side from the left of midfield. His Chelsea teammate, Thibaut Courtois, is the number one keeper, ahead of Simon Mignolet (obviously) and Michy Batshuayi completes a Belgian Chelsea triplet. Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku spearheads the Belgian attack and was third top scorer in European qualifying while Marouane Fellaini is a huge (quite literally) threat off the bench.
Who should I look out for?
By the time the World Cup comes around, Kevin De Bruyne should be on the same level as Eden Hazard so the link-up between those two make Belgium the most dangerous attacking team at the tournament. But if you’re looking for someone that you haven’t watched before, Youri Tielemans is renowned for being the hottest youngster on various football video games but at Monaco he’s finally hitting the ground running and could be a major part of that Belgian midfield in Russia.
Who’s in charge?
Former Wigan and Everton manager, Roberto Martinez, was the surprise choice to take over from Marc Wilmots after Euro 2016. Poor Romelu Lukaku must’ve thought he’d got rid of him after Martinez’s sacking by Everton last year. They’ve qualified easily enough but we’ll have to wait and see if Martinez can do it on the big stage without Ben Watson.
What’s their World Cup record like?
It’s not great to be honest with you but they’ve never had a team as good as this one. They made the semi-finals in 1986 but they went down 2-0 to an Argentina side lead by Diego Maradona. They finished fourth on that occasion and that remains their record to this day. They lost out to Argentina once again in Brazil last time around in the quarter-finals so they’ll be looking to avoid them in Russia.
And finally, have they got any chance of winning the World Cup?
When you think of how many quality players they have at their disposal, it’s easy to see them as a main contender for the trophy come July. But then again, they have Roberto Martinez in charge.