As a supporter or a football fan there is no greater joy than seeing your national team compete at the World Cup. Thankfully, for those supporters of the Belgian national team they will be cheering for their “Rode Duivels” in this summer’s World Cup finals. Their place in the upcoming tournament should come as no surprise seeing how the national team went through their qualifying unscathed and finished 1st in their group avoiding the dreaded playoff. Coincide their recent performances with Belgium’s current riches in young talent to call upon, and the ubiquitous term of “golden generation” will start to come to mind.
But this current crop of midfielders and playmakers have earned those plaudits through successful individual performances at club level and subsequent great outings on national duty. Following the sacking of manager Georges Leekens in May 2012, assistant manager Marc Wilmots was appointed national team manager. Under Wilmots “L’équipe Belge de Football” has shown subtle signs of the former robust, physical, and tactical teams of the 1980s, but also the creative and free-flowing verve of today’s contemporary footballing sides.
Having previously qualified for 6 successive World Cups spanning from Spain in 1982, to Korea / Japan in 2002, this iteration of the Red Devils have to continue with a great tradition of physical and well organized football that the Belgian and world fans have known. For manager Wilmots, being able to keep his star studded 23 man squad content will be a challenge but it is a welcomed headache. With the likes of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bryune, and Moussa Dembele consistently performing and grabbing headlines, it would be assumed that the starting XI is set, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Dries Mertens (Napoli), Axel Witsel (Zenit St. Petersburg), Kevin Mirallas (Everton) and Radja Nainggolan (on loan at AS. Roma from Cagliari) have all quietly been in superb form this season to give their gaffer a proper selection headache. A further look into the selection pool depth, and the future of the Belgian side looks healthy with youngsters like: Adnan Janujaz of Manchester United, Divock Origi of Lille, Michy Batshuayi of Standard Liège and Zakaria Bakkali of PSV Eindhoven.
As Manchester City and Belgian captain Vincent Kompany walks with his fellow Red Devils on the pitch to take on Algeria, a new experience of representing their country at the World Cup for the first time in their respective careers will bring a sense of familiarity to their supporters who have been patiently waiting for 16 years.