Last dance for Belgium’s golden generation at FIFA World Cup 2022?

Last dance for Belgium's golden generation at FIFA World Cup 2022

Over the last couple of years, Belgium have looked like one of the strongest teams in world football. Be it FIFA World Cup or UEFA Euros, they are always given a chance and are regarded as one of the favorites to clinch any particular tournament. They look really impressive on paper and on the field too they play good football.

Every football fan will remember the time when Belgium were ranked as the no.1 team in the world. Since 2014 if i’m not wrong, Belgian players have been in high demand among top European clubs. Certain Belgians have even won many major silverwares in La Liga, Premier League, Serie A and so on.

Then how come have they not won an International trophy? Its not that they lack experience or quality, they have both but maybe not luck? They finished 3rd during the 2018 edition at Russia which was their best ever. They remained at the summit of FIFA rankings for over 2 years and that is not plain luck.

The Golden generation that we have been getting to see since 2014 dates back to 2002 when Belgium were eliminated from the Round-of-16 of World cup by mighty Brazilians. It was the time when the Belgian federation decided to make an overhaul and bring a serious change within the dressing room and approach.

Few Veteran players called upon their time and few were shown the exit door. What followed was a number of players coming into the team and failing to retain their spots. As a result, Belgium did not qualify for the UEFA Euro 2004 and FIFA World cup 2006.

In the light of this failure Michel Sablon took over as Belgium’s football director in 2006 and began the process of this “Golden generation”. Belgium were relatively a defensive minded team before Sablon came on board. The failure of their defensive approach needed to change and Sablon came up with a brilliant idea.

Michel Sablon took inspiration from other teams like Germany, Netherlands, France, Barcelona and Ajax to adopt an attacking and inventive style of play. The focus of grass roots and youth systems shifted from old methods to new inventive as well as dominating approach.

After thorough research, he came to a conclusion that the impact should be on the overall development of individual players rather than just winning matches. The players were given more time on how they should improve their dribbling skills and how to take on the opposing defenders.

Initially they faced a lot of backlash on the same but by 2008, his ideas took the center-stage. The Belgian U-21 team consisting of players like Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen, Marouane Fellaini, Kevin Mirralas and co. finished 4th during the Beijing Olympics.

Later on Belgian players started moving to highly competitive leagues. Vincent Kompany became the first player to move to Premier League giants Manchester City, where he now has a statue on his honor. Marouane Fellaini moved to Everton and Thomas Vermaelen went to Arsenal.

The likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Jan Vertonghen and many more followed their lead.

Slowly things started to change and Michel Sabloni’s philosophy started to pay off. During the 2014 FIFA World cup qualifiers, Belgium finished as Group winners. Their team had players like Thibaut Curtois, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard, Kevin Mirallas, Kevin De Bruyne, Steven Defour and Romelu Lukaku.

Although, during the main event in 2014, Belgium crashed out against Argentina in the quarter-finals. Their hopes kept on rising but they failed to win any of the major tournament that followed.

Currently, their squad is valued over 400 Million euros and this could well be the last chance for head coach Roberto Martinez and his ageing Golden generation to win the World cup. They also have bright youngsters in the form of Youri Tielemans, Charles De Ketelaere, Timothy Castagne and Leandro Trossard.

The future is till bright for Belgium but if they fail to bring a silverware back home none of the above mentioned evolution will go to the history books and they will only remain “Favorites”.

Also Read – FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar : Find all the Squads

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