It feels like Belgium’s golden generation is somewhat fading. There was a time when the gloom of the 2000s turned to consistent deep runs under the leadership of manager Roberto Martinez.

Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, and more all dominated the global scene.

It was best shown by their run to the 2018 World Cup semifinals, where they went through England, Japan, and Brazil before losing to eventual winners France.

They were the team of the tournament, playing the fluid, attacking offense fans desperately craved.

However, it looks like the generation that earned the FIFA Rankings’ #1 spot and forged several deep runs in major tournaments is fading. Vincent Kompany recently signed as Bayern’s new manager.

Eden Hazard retired after a horrible stint at Real Madrid. Courtois, still at Real, is struggling with injury and has been dropped from the Belgian squad for Euro 2024.

Lukaku and De Bruyne are the only players left in this year’s Euros squad, and they’re aging — De Bruyne will turn 33 during the tournament, while Lukaku recently turned 31.

Even worse, this golden generation will also retire without a major trophy.

Despite the positive performances and potential they showed throughout their glimmers of success, Belgium doesn’t have a trophy to its name. Their two quarter-final appearances in 2016 and 2020, along with the third-place finish at Russia are their best finishes in recent memory.

Belgium has some promising players coming down the pipeline. Jeremy Doku and Johan Bakayoko are still under 22 but are some of the best wingers in the world. 19-year-old Arthur Vermeeren is the world’s best-kept secret, while the likes of Amadou Onana, Charles De Ketelaere, and Zeno Debast are all rising youngsters set for big moves in the future.

But, for the most senior members of the national team, particularly Jan Vertonghen (154 caps), Axel Witsel (132), Lukaku (115), and De Bruyne (101), this is the last — and most important — chance to walk away with silverware from their golden generation.

Their Form

After losing to eventual Euro 2020 winner Italy in the quarter-finals, Belgium has had an up-and-down path to Euro 2024. They faced an embarrassing group stage exit in the 2022 World Cup, with longtime manager Roberto Martinez stepping down from his position.

Under new manager Domenico Tedesco, Belgium has reached new heights. Belgium finished unbeaten in their Euro 2024 qualifying group, scoring 22 goals in eight games while conceding four. They held their own with England in a 2-2 friendly and played well in their 2-0 win against Montenegro.

Belgium had a promising victory over Luxembourg on Saturday in a 3-0 win. Lukaku scored his first goal after winning and converting his penalty in the 43rd minute. After Jeremy Doku beat his man off the dribble, his pinpoint cutback found Lukaku at the far post, where Lukaku easily tapped in the chance in the 57th to double Belgium’s lead.

Then, Wout Faes chipped a long ball directly into the path of Leandro Trossard, who settled it with his foot. With the ball controlled and settled, he blasted his shot into the bottom left corner of the goal to make it 3-0 for Belgium.

Their Path to the Final

Belgium has an easy group and they shouldn’t have any problems making it out of the group stage. Opta Analytics gives them a whopping 90% chance to advance from the group and a 53% chance to finish first. They will face Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine in the group stage.

Slovakia, ranking just inside the top 50 of the FIFA Rankings, has a quietly underrated team that could make some waves at the Euros. This is their third appearance at the Euros, but they have some of the most experienced players in the world. PSG’s Milan Škriniar captains this up-and-coming squad, assisted by veteran midfielder Juraj Kucka, Feyenoord defender David Hancko, and Napoli’s Stanislav Lobotka.

Romania is in the same class as Slovakia — a top-50 team that can potentially make a deep run, but a lack of firepower up top and experience at the Euros could doom them.

They were undefeated in their Euros qualifying group, with six wins and five goals conceded in ten games.

This is their sixth total Euro appearance, and they’re looking for their second-ever appearance in the knockout round. Spurs’ breakout defender Radu Drăgușin leads a gritty front line, while Parma’s Dennis Man and captain Nicolas Stanciu are the main players of Romania’s attack.

The biggest threat to an early Belgian exit is Ukraine. Ukraine is coming off an incredible run to the Euro 2020 quarterfinals, and they look poised to do it again.

They’ve added a lot of new talent, and their returning players from Euro 2020 have also improved. Premier League names like Oleksandr Zinchenko, Mykhaylo Mudryk, Ilya Zabarnyi, and Vitaliy Mykolenko will also join the team in Germany. Arsenal-linked attacker Georgiy Sudakov, La Liga top scorer Artem Dovbyk, and Real stopper Andrey Lunin are also core parts of the national team.

If Belgium wins in their group, they’ll face one of the four best third-placed teams in the tournament. If they finish second, they’ll play the runners-up of Group D — likely the Netherlands or Austria.

Key Players

With Courtois left out of Belgium’s squad, Wolfsburg stopper Koen Casteels will take on Belgium’s starting goalkeeper spot. His success and ability to step into a new role for Belgium will likely be the difference between an early exit and a late-round run in the Euros. Casteels earned his tenth cap for Belgium in their friendly against Luxembourg.

Belgium boasts an exciting wing duo of Arsenal’s Leandro Trossard and City’s Jeremy Doku. Both saw limited game time in Euro 2020, with Doku earning an assist. With their recent form for their clubs, both are also in line to see a more important role in the national team. Expect them to see creative freedom in their spots. They’ll be able to wreak havoc either cutting into the middle or taking on defenders one-on-one on the sideline.

The Key Question

Belgium needs to take its disastrous World Cup 2022 as motivation for the future and as a lesson going into Germany. They were disorganized and disjointed; their usually efficient offense looked chaotic. Can the front line stay organized in form?

On paper, this Belgian attack is one of the best in the world. Kevin de Bruyne is arguably the best #10 in the world, and the partnership of Doku and Trossard is also scary. Talismanic target man Romelu Lukaku is in peak goalscoring form, evidenced by his brace on Saturday. PSV winger Johan Bakayoko and Atalanta striker Charles De Ketelaere could also make huge impacts. They can both come off the bench or earn a starting spot.

But a big worry for the team is whether all these exciting puzzle pieces will fit together. Belgium’s squad that traveled to Qatar was also talented. But, rifts in the locker room, an aging, unfit team, and a lack of leadership doomed them.

With Tedesco in charge, the issues look bandaged, if not healed. Against an admittedly inferior Luxembourg side, they had long spells of possession with several link-up plays. With De Bruyne as the creative outlet for the potent Belgians, they threatened Luxembourg’s keeper several times. Belgium could have easily scored two or three more goals in the match.

To keep Belgium’s good form, Lukaku and De Bruyne need to step up as leaders. Both are in the latter stages of their careers, boasting over 100 caps for Belgium. However, their experiences playing on the biggest stages of soccer will be much needed for this Belgium core.


Belgium vs Slovakia, June 17th, Euro 2024

Romania vs Belgium, June 22nd, Euro 2024

Belgium vs Ukraine, June 26th, Euro 2024

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