Belgium: The Most Intriguing Team At the 2014 World Cup
As World Cups generally go, there are really only a handful of teams capable of lifting the trophy. The likes of Brazil, Spain, Germany, France, Argentina, and other famous soccer nations ring proudly throughout the years with their accomplishments proudly etched in fans’ memories. Even England can boast of their success in 1966. And the reason these teams always win is simple; they always have the most talented players. Well, this year there is a new kid on the block, who while still quite young, has just as much talent as anyone of these big boys. That team is Belgium!
Not historically the strongest of soccer teams, Belgium did have their moment in 1986 when they reached the World Cup semifinals, though eventually Maradona and Argentina proved to be too strong! But recently, the Belgians have been missing from such major tournaments. They haven’t even qualified for a World Cup or EURO competition since 2002!
But when you look at their current squad, one could argue that this team could go all the way. At every position across the board they have a very talented young prospect. Their goalie, Thibaut Courtois, is the future number 1 of Chelsea, who recently won La Liga while on loan with Atletico Madrid, a team he helped to the Champions League Final!
Their field players contain hosts of Premier League regulars at major clubs like Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), and Adnan Januzaj (Man U).
Other players compete at other prestigious clubs across Europe like Axel Witsel (Zenit St. Petersburg), Kevin de Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Steven Defour (Porto), and Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munic). Compared to any other squad, this team is most impressive.
The problem facing this team is their youth and inexperience. Only Van Buyten has ever been at a major tournament, 12 years ago! Everyone else will be facing the first time in front of the global spotlight. While they do compete at the top level with their respective clubs, donning the national jersey and playing a World Cup is a whole new ball game. The have a relatively easy group with Russia, South Korea, and Algeria, meaning they should be able to ease through whilst handling the pressure, but as soon as they face the knockout rounds and another top team, they could be in for trouble.
But all that aside, you look at this team and see great potential. Romelu Lukaku has the chance to become a world class striker like Didier Drogba! Hazard is the ultimate of midfield maestros, while Witsel and Fellaini provide strength and size in the heart of the park. Defensively, Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, and Vermaelen are experienced pros. Put them all together, and you have all the pieces of a puzzle that could be a major competitor at an international soccer tournament. While Brazil 2014 may come too soon, don’t be surprised if these guys pull major upset against someone like Germany or Portugal. While I think their inexperience will be their undoing, I foresee this same group of guys becoming a serious force in time for Russia 2018!