Belgium’s departure from Euro 2020 raised a few eyebrows on Roberto Martinez’s managerial tactics. The world questioned if the Red Devils’ so-called ‘Golden Generation’ ever challenge the Champions’ throne. And once again, Belgium left an international tournament empty-handed.
The quarter-final exit against Italy did hint towards a revamp required at Belgium’s camp. Belgium needs to start bedding youngsters into their national setup. Talented fresh-bloods like Jeremy Doku and Albert Sambi Lokonga could be the new bellwethers of Belgium’s eleven.
Gave it our all. ❤️ #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/R2hRjhqPPb
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) July 3, 2021
With the Qatar World Cup knocking on the door, is it time for Belgium to welcome a new Golden Generation if they want to be termed as ‘Conquerors’ rather than ‘Challengers’?
TIME RUNNING OUT
Challenge a Belgian fan for a debate and the first thing he would scream is that Belgium’s golden generation are going to rule the world. Well! He’s not wrong, a mouth-watering midfield led by Kevin De Bruyne, a gigantic shot-stopper between the posts, and Lukaku and Eden Hazard leading the forward battery, Belgium’s golden generation was destined for glory.
Unfortunately for Roberto Martinez and his troops time might be running out. The star-studded side could be reaching its boiling point after a failed Euro 2020 and 2018 World Cup campaign.
With the 2022 World Cup approaching slowly, Qatar is the last chance for the Golden Generation to stamp their authority in the world. Otherwise, the Red Devils would be considered a beautiful team faltering to conquer silverware.
Romelu Lukaku is 28-years-old and would be donning the prestigious jersey once or twice before a World Cup or Euro heartbreak hampers his international journey. De Bruyne will be 31 by the time Qatar’s challenge arrives and his productivity could decline.
To the best fans, thank you. 🙏 #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/pDOWiyYGso
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) July 3, 2021
While Thorgan Hazard stole the limelight in Europe this summer, Eden Hazard’s stint at Los Blanco’s isn’t proving out to be worthy.
An injury-prone elder Hazard has failed to replicate his Premier League heroics in Spain. The perfect substitute for Cristiano Ronaldo, the Belgian has failed to follow the footsteps of the gigantic Portuguese.
THE YOUNG BATTALION
Belgium was knocked out by a colossal Italian side 2-1 in the quarter-finals. Although Martinez’s Red Devils were a shadow of themselves, one player didn’t leave Allianz Arena without earning a spot in Belgium fan’s hearts.
Very disappointed after the result but I am grateful for the experiences I have had in my first tournament.
Thanks to my teammates, coaches and the fans for supporting me 🙏🏾🙌🏾
We will be back! 🇧🇪 pic.twitter.com/3WlRVXcsXB
— Jeremy Doku (@JeremyDoku) July 3, 2021
Eden Hazard’s injury during the 1-0 thumping of Portugal opened the doors for a young but talented Jeremy Doku to take centre-stage. Every second Doku touched the ball, the Italian hearts skipped a beat. Mouth-watering skills, flawless passes, and electrifying gallops behind the Azzurri’s defence, the Red Devil was spitting fire in Germany.
While Martinez’s pick might seem impressive it did expose the talent lying in front of Belgium. The Golden Generation needs an injection of youth or maybe Belgium needs another golden generation to lift trophies.
8 – Jéremy Doku completed eight dribbles against Italy, a record for a teenager since we have full data for the World Cup (1966+) and EUROs (1980+). Mesmerising. #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/29oWdkr1Hh
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 2, 2021
Doku’s appearance at the biggest stage explained to the world why Belgium need the young prospects to be the torch-bearer for the 2022 World Cup.
While the pressure will be shifted off De Bruyne’s or Lukaku’s shoulders, the younger generation will be exposed to the heat of the biggest stage, and they might come out as diamonds.
🔎 | FOCUS
Pedri vs Switzerland:
👌 111 touches
🔑 5 key passes (most)
🔭 6/6 acc. long balls
👟 84/92 acc. passes
⚔️ 6/10 duels won
❌ 5 tackles
🧲 2 interceptions
📈 7.8 SofaScore rating
An impressively mature performance by the 18-year-old. 👏👏#EURO2020 #SUIESP pic.twitter.com/w8YlhX5DCC
— SofaScore (@SofaScoreINT) July 2, 2021
Pick the example of Spain and Pedri. Luis Enrique’s attacking sharks were dependent on an 18-year-old to provide them with deliveries which he unimaginably did. Imagine Pedri’s vision combined with Lukaku’s shooting abilities. Although this combination is not possible internationally, Belgium’s youth system does have the capacity to fabricate its own Pedri.
THE STARS WAITING IN THE WINGS
Albert Sambi Lokonga, Arsenal’s top priority in the summer’s shopping window is another Belgium player who could soon be seen donning the Red and Black jersey. A defensive-midfielder, Lokonga has an eye for little pockets of space behind the defence and has the knack of scoring pivotal goals for his club.
While words can’t describe Jeremy Doku’s performance for Belgium, maybe the 50,000 German spectators could. With the Qatar World Cup being just around the corner such youngsters should be nurtured otherwise Belgium could lose out on trophies once again.
A golden generation needs learning and guidance from day-1 otherwise the roadmap in front of them is quite blurry. Take England’s case, they were a joke a few years back after their golden generation called it a day. Players like Yari Verschaeren and Charles De Ketelaere will surely rise to prominence soon. Their talents will garner the fame and adulation it deserves. They are future stars for the Red Devils as Belgium is quietly nurturing another possible golden generation set to wow us for the next 10 years.
But the Three Lions will be fighting for the European title on Saturday and have looked like a formidable army in the Euros. The process is slow but if Belgium is smart enough, the second wave of the golden generation could be prepared to support the first wall.