In our Belgium Preview: World Cup 2018, we share our analysis about this Belgium team. Can the perennial dark horse finally win a competition?

Belgium Preview: World Cup 2018

Full Squad

Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels, Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Leander Dendoncker, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Meunier, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen

Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco, Nacer Chadli, Kevin De Bruyne, Mousa Dembélé, Marouane Fellaini, Thorgan Hazard, Adnan Januzaj, Youri Tielemans, Axel Witsel

Forwards: Michy Batshuayi, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens

  • Manager: Roberto Martinez
  • Captain: Eden Hazard
  • Best Finish: Fourth (1986)

Likely starting lineup

Belgium Preview: World Cup 2018

Analysis

After Belgium underwhelmed at the European Championships in 2016 and decided to part ways with Marc Wilmots, there was massive surprise was Roberto Martinez was chosen as the man to piece together this incredible set of footballers.

The former Everton boss can certainly talk a good game and his teams play some fluid attacking football. But cohesion and discipline have never been his strong point as a coach.

The results have been as expected. Belgium’s clutch of world-class footballers got them through qualifying with ease, although when they’ve been up against the better sides under Martinez they’ve struggled. A 2-0 loss to Spain early in the new coach’s tenure was a big wakeup call.

Preparations have been mixed, although the team does appear to be on an upward trajectory going to Russia. A stodgy 0-0 draw with Portugal has been followed by handsome victories over Egypt and Costa Rica; crucially for Martinez a number of his best attackers appear to be in the groove ahead of the opener against Panama.

The talents of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne will surely be enough to see Belgium into the knockout stages and potentially beyond that. Even so, there are still big question marks as to how this team would deal with the accompaniments of a potential quarter-final against an elite opponent.

Do Belgium have the tactical application to shut down better opponents? Is the togetherness within the group to get them through tough moments? And is Martinez good enough a manager to adapt when things aren’t going to plan?

They’re questions that’ll only be answered when this team does begin to face a higher calibre of opponent at the World Cup. The potential is there for Belgium to blow any team away in the tournament with their flair forward play; if that can offset other issues within the team, they may just have an outside chance.

 

Key Man – Kevin De Bruyne

Belgium Preview: World Cup 2018

Fresh from his extraordinary campaign for Manchester City, it’s going to be intriguing to see if De Bruyne can have a similar impact for his country in Russia.

Given the 3-4-3 system Martinez prefers, De Bruyne does have a different role to play for the Red Devils. Often he is part of a front three alongside Hazard and Lukaku, but there are occasions when he’s been dropped deeper into midfield to help set the tempo of Belgium’s attacking play.

Regardless of where he is on the pitch the midfielder is capable of having an impact, as he showed so consistently for City in 2017-18.

Technically, there aren’t many better players in the tournament, as De Bruyne is such a sweet striker of the ball on either foot. His passes can be delicate, fired into space or ripped around the back of a defence to release a team-mate in on goal.

What he’s developed under Pep Guardiola is improved awareness and refined decision making. If he can knit together this Belgium attack with his mastery of the football, it’ll enrich their chances of success significantly

 

Belgium’s Group Stage fixtures

Monday, June 18

Belgium vs. Panama, 11am, FS1, Telemundo, Sling Blue and fubo (7-day free trial)

Saturday, June 23

Belgium vs. Tunisia, 8am, FOX, Telemundo, Sling Blue and fubo (7-day free trial)

Thursday, June 28

England vs. Belgium, 2pm, FOX, Telemundo, Sling Blue and fubo (7-day free trial)

 

Belgium’s path to the final

If Belgium wins Group G, their Round of 16 game will be against the country that finishes second from Group H which will either be Poland, Senegal, Colombia or Japan. If Belgium wins that Round of 16 game, Belgium will enter the quarterfinal stage with a game against the team that is victorious between the winner of Group F (Costa Rica, Brazil, Serbia or Switzerland) and the team that finishes second in Group E (either Germany, Mexico, South Korea or Sweden). If Belgium advances to the semi-final stage, it’ll play the winner of the quarterfinal that comes out of the A1 vs. B2 versus C1 vs. D2 series.

If Belgium finishes second in Group G, Belgium will play the team that finishes first in Group H (either Poland, Senegal, Colombia or Japan). If Belgium wins that game, it would be in the quarterfinal against the team that is victorious between the winner of Group F (either Germany, Mexico, South Korea or Sweden) and the team that finishes second in Group E (either Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia or Costa Rica). If Belgium advances to the semi-final stage, it’ll play the winner of the quarterfinal that comes out of the B1 vs. A2 versus D1 vs. C2 series.

 

SEE MORE:

• Previews for all 32 World Cup teams
• World Cup Bracket (free download)
• World Cup groups
• World Cup TV schedule

 

Belgium World Cup shirt (home)

Show your support for Belgium National Team at the next match with this 2018 Home Replica Jersey from adidas. Material: 100% Polyester. Embroidered team crest on chest.

See more details about Belgium’s World Cup shirt

 

Belgium World Cup shirt (away)

Belgium Preview: World Cup 2018

A golden shirt for a country’s golden generation. This men’s soccer jersey is styled after the away shirt Belgium’s multi-talented national team wears. Reflecting the colors of the Belgian flag, this sweat-wicking shirt has a woven badge on its chest. adidas is dedicated to creating products in ways that minimize their environmental impact. This jersey is made with recycled polyester to save resources and decrease emissions.

See more details about Belgium World Cup shirt

 

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