Belgium Preview – Early Exit A Hazard
World Cup 2014
Belgium’s youthful squad is packed with talent, but do they have the tournament experience?
Belgium’s run of results since reaching the finals have led to questions about their credentials as genuine contenders as they’ve drawn one and lost two of their three friendlies – against Japan and Colombia at home – since finishing their qualifying campaign, shipping seven goals in the process.
They’ve certainly missed the presence of Vincent Kompany during that run of games but further friendlies against Luxembourg, Tunisia and, to a much lesser extent, Sweden, aren’t likely to pose many of the questions they can be expected to face when they compete at a first finals tournament since 2002 against Algeria on June 17th.
Marc Wilmot’s charges coasted through a group comfortably ahead of Croatia and an out of sorts Serbian side. Belgium remained unbeaten in the group, conceding just four goals in the ten qualifiers and earned a national record of seven wins on the trot before drawing 1-1 at home to Wales in their final game, after top spot and a finals berth had been assured.
Manchester United wonderkid Adnan Januzaj made the grade despite only declaring his international allegiance a month ago as he could have declared for Kosovo, Albania or England had he been willing to wait a few years (in the latter case).
Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke misses out after suffering a serious Achilles injury and so Romelu Lukaku is likely to be their first-choice striker in a squad lacking natural forwards, though Kevin Mirallas could be used in that role.
No fewer than 12 Premier League players were selected and their keeper contingent will be reduced.
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, on loan from Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Koen Casteels (Hoffenheim), Silvio Proto (Anderlecht).
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St Petersburg), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele (both Tottenham), Steven Defour (Porto), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj (both Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Divock Origi (Lille), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg).
Forwards: Romelu Lukaku (Everton, on loan from Chelsea), Dries Mertens (Napoli).
A crunch clash with Russia in their second game looks set to decide the top spot in Group H,
although South Korea shouldn’t be dismissed and are more than capable of springing a surprise.
17 June, Belgium v Algeria, Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 17:00
22 June, Belgium v Russia, Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, 17:00
26 June, South Korea v Belgium, Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, 21:00
The draw hasn’t been kind to Belgium, as if they make it out of the groups Portugal or Germany are likely to await and I’d take the 5/4 on a second round elimination before 11/10 on a quarter-final spot.
At 4/6 on to win the group they don’t make great value so take them to earn seven points from the group at 11/4, though Eden Hazard could prove a great price at 9/2 to finish their top scorer too.