FIFA World Cup 2014 Winners - Belgium... Could the Golden Generation Do It?
Over the last few years the Belgium team has grew into a solid unit which concedes little goals and knows how to find the net. In World Cup Qualifying games for 2014 they have conceded just one goal and scored ten. There are now double the Belgium players in the Premier League that there were five years ago, and everyone of them is filled with quality. Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Everton all have Belgian players at the heart of their teams. Most of their players tend to play in their home country as youngsters or neighbouring France before getting lured to the Premier League to play at the highest level.
To have a 'Golden Generation' your country can't just produce a couple of great players or even 5 or 6, you need closer to 9 or 10 in order to challenge with the already superb footballing nations out there. This is exactly what Belgium have, every position if filled by a notable name who has the ability to hold their own against other top footballers.
Although their whole team is talented, it's their defence which makes for most impressive viewing. In goal they have the choice between Simon Mignolet, Thibaut Courtois and Jean-François Gillet, three very capable stoppers. The first two men I mentioned are still very young and will be looking to knock Gillet off his perch for the 2014 World Cup.
In front of their goalkeeper things only look better for the national team with recognisable names from the Premier league at the heart of the defence. When injuries aren't a problem, the two first choice centre backs tend to be Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen, both captains of top Premier League teams. Kompany has been accredited with the same honour for his homeland. Playing left back you will find Jan Vertonghen who is comfortable on the ball and has an eye for goal. Another fresh face fills the right back spot with 24 year old Toby Alderweireld. In his 5th season with Ajax having gained two league titles, he already has plenty of experience under his belt.
Under current coach Marc Wilmots the team plays either 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 where the wingers push very high up and act as left and right attacking forwards. This formation gives the team balance and is why their goals for and against are so consistent.
The players chosen to play midfield are dependant on the formations discussed, however some players get the nod whether 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 is chosen such as Kevin De Bruyne. When playing 4-3-3 the midfielders who get the nod are usually Witsel, Dembele and Fellaini. This makes for a very powerful mid section as all three players have high physical attributes as well as a height advantage over most opposing players. All these three players also have great technical ability on the ball which pretty much makes them all rounded. Dembele and Fellaini have scored pivotal goals for their respective clubs this season whereas Witsel scores less and creates more.
Finally I will take a look a Belgium's attack and how they line up. Benteke leads the line and why wouldn't he after an emphatic first season with Aston Villa making their relagation battle a little more bearable. On the left forward flank when playing 4-3-3 you will find Eden Hazard who is a master of assisting goals and not shy of scoring them either. Kevin De Bruyne occupies the right side who since joining Werder Bremen on loan from Chelsea has had a fantastic run of form collecting some goals along the way. When playing the more defensive 4-5-1 Hazard and De Bruyne drop back into more of a winger role leaving Benteke as the lone man up top.
As well as having a first team full of devine footballers, Belgium has quality in depth with a star studded bench, a must for any top footballing nation. Names such as Van Buyten, Defour, Mertens, Vossen, Mirallas and Lukaku are ready to step in when called upon. With an average squad age of just 25 years old Belgium have plenty of time to progress into an even better team than they already are. However, for the reasons I have stated, Belgium may not have to improve much at all to achieve the international success they desire.