Ten long years have passed since the European nation of Belgium last played in a major international tournament. They were once regulars and boasted strong teams. However, after an abysmal decade, the “Red Devils” look to be in serious contention for a place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and feature a squad filled to the brim with exciting young talent.
The most dazzling of such players is Eden Hazard. After establishing himself as a star in Lille of France’s Ligue 1, Hazard moved to Chelsea this past summer and has emerged as a brilliant young player. The winger has great speed and touch on the ball that terrorizes defenders. In just seven EPL matches this year, Hazard has already notched 6 assists and scored 2 goals. He also has drawn penalty fouls on several occasions. At only 21, the sky is the limit for this wonderful playmaker.
But that is merely the tip of the iceberg. Belgium has a set of young, fearsome strikers in Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke. Lukaku is a Chelsea player on loan at West Bromwich, and has scored several important goals for the club. He is a large, physical presence that many in London hope will resemble former Chelsea striker, Didier Drogba. Benteke is also a strong and big striker and recently moved to Aston Villa. He has already opened his scoring account there and also scored the opener in Belgium’s 3-0 victory in Serbia this past weekend. A third striker in Kevin Mirallas is very capable: He also scored in Serbia, and now plays for Everton after he led the Greek league in scoring at Olympiakos.
Another Everton player who is vital for Belgium is Marouane Fellaini. The massive central midfielder with a big Afro has been a great physical presence in the center of the pitch. Also, he has a wonderful ability to score the occasional goal, like his winner for Everton when they beat Manchester United on the league’s opening day.
Defensively, Belgium is also stacked with talent. Center backs Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen both captain elite Premier League clubs in Manchester City and Arsenal. Jan Vertonghen is another great defender and recently signed with Tottenham.
What makes this team so exciting for now is that nearly all of these players are under the age of 25. They are all growing up together and just getting their careers started at major clubs. Manager Marc Wilmots must be licking his chops in preparation for what could be the best feast of football that Belgium has ever delighted upon. Their 2014 World Cup qualifying group is winnable for the team with only Croatia and Serbia as main threats, and they have started the group well, beating both Serbia and Wales and drawing with Croatia. They next play Scotland and will surely be eyeing three points.
Marc Wilmots was captain the last time Belgium was at a World Cup in 2002, and is now their manager. Hopefully he can help create some magic within this squad because on talent alone, they could be a major threat to any team hoping for World Cup glory in Brazil.