Belgium: World Cup 2014 Team Preview
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, on loan from Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Sammy Bossut (Zulte Waregem).
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Atlético Madrid), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Nacer Chadli (Tottenham), Steven Defour (Porto), Moussa Dembélé (Tottenham), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Axel Witsel (Zenit).
Forwards: Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Divock Origi (Lille).
Best Ever Finish: Fourth (1986)
Captain: Vincent Kompany
Manager: Marc Wilmots
Wilmots’ team cemented their place at the top of their group with a game to spare, beating Croatia to the sole automatic qualifying berth.
The ‘football hipster’ would have told you long ago that Belgium will be a dark horse for this tournament. And during the qualifying campaign, we’ve heard many experts come out and say this team looks a good outside bet for the title.
Looking ahead to the tournament, there is a sense that not only are Belgium a strong outsider, but they have evolved into a genuine contender. Granted, there were many who noted a long time ago that players like Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard were destined for stardom. But they have been joined by the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Thibaut Courtois, Axel Witsel and Vincent Kompany; all players who have developed way beyond expectations in recent seasons. Wonderful for Belgium, and the result is a squad packed with high-calibre, hungry players.
They’ve been drawn a relatively easy group, but they must remain focused and professional. There is a fear that a lack of quality opposition in the group stage could sap of their sharpness, but influential figures like Kompany must keep the team focused and grounded.
There is a dearth of major tournament experience – it will be the first time the nation has competed at a major tournament in twelve years – but they have a deep squad overflowing with classy prospects. When it all comes together, the Belgians are a serious force to be reckoned with and if their qualifying campaign is anything to go by, then we can expect something special from this squad of fine young players.
Key Player – Vincent Kompany
We were all witness to the impact Kompany’s absence had on his club side in the early days of the Premier League campaign and his influence is just as key for the national team. This was only compounded by the manner in which Manchester City finished the campaign, with some strong performances from Kompany hauling them to the title.
Not only is the Anderlecht academy graduate a fine defender, he’s a leader of men. His motivational skills, organization and the manner in which he leads by example will all be crucial qualities in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a major tournament.
Kompany has won trophies and performed superbly in many big games and that experience will be vital if his team are to go long into the tournament. Belgium’s chances will be a whole lot more realistic if he’s at the peak of his powers; a simply irreplaceable presence.