In the world rankings, Belgium is ranked the tenth best team in the world. However, you cannot read too much into this, as they have not been in any major tournaments recently. Their rebuild was started after dismal failed qualifying rounds for the 2006, 2008 and 2010 World Cups), and this process has slightly skewed their ranking. They also now look certain to qualify into the World Cup as they sit top of their group, three points clear of second placed Croatia while Serbia in third place are an insurmountable distance away.
This success doesn’t show any sign of stopping, with victories for the Belgian U19’s over England, Portugal and Croatia in the U19 European Championships. This team featured names such as Thorgan Hazard (Chelsea) and Paul-José Mpoku (Tottenham Hotspur).
Next year in Brazil, it may be a good idea to fly the flag for the Flemish country in 2014 as many of their more accomplished players are in the Premier League. It may be as close as we ever get to a home side winning the World Cup.
Marc Wilmots’s side will very much be the dark horses of this competition. They have a brilliant first team squad that oozes class and technical ability and strength in depth that other nations can only envy. They have a team of leaders, experience, physicality and skill.
However, it may be argued that Belgium is yet to be tested in a big tournament. Understandably, Belgium isn’t as fancied as the traditional heavyweights that are favorites: Brazil, Germany, Spain, Italy, etc. This may point to an improved squad at FIFA World Cup 2018 due to the strength in depth as well as the youth of the current squad is in their favor. Perhaps if they fail in Rio, Russia will await them with open arms. However, one thing is certain; they will be a dominant force in the world of football in the near future.
The nascent potential within the squad is undeniable and the escalating domestic club experiences may cancel out any doubts over international experience. It is worth remembering that anything can happen in a cup competition… except England winning a penalty shoot-out!