Euro 2020 is almost upon us and we can’t wait for the ball to be kicked. This tournament is absolute entertainment for us fans. However, for a select 11.5 million people it means more than that. It presents them with the last chance to witness something special. The people of Belgium would keep everything aside and pray for their Golden Generation to triumph at the Euros.
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) May 19, 2021
Belgium’s rise as the dork horses of world football has been sensational. A revolution sparked in the 1980s bore its results in the new millennium. Belgium’s Golden Generation has been taking the world by storm since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Their players have become superstars and are the best in their positions now. They have a thrilling run to the semis at the 2018 World Cup. The Red Devils have failed to win anything tangible to show for their success. With the core of the squad ageing, Euro 2020 might be the last chance for them to win big.
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) May 17, 2021
Belgium coached by the Spaniard Roberto Martinez are placed in Group-B alongside Denmark, Finland and Russia. They have the firepower to top the group easily and stroll to the knockouts. They face one of the lucky losers in the round of 16 if they top the group. Considering the draws are in their favour, they can navigate to semis easily. Their star quality needs to be at their best if the Red Devils are to win the title.
We at FootTheBall analyse Belgium’s strengths and weaknesses before the Euro. Then it’s up to you to decide whether the Golden Generation can do it or not.
Only a few teams in the world can match or better Belgium’s attacking talent. Their top half of the field oozes with quality and game-changers. What’s more, is a majority of the players come into the Euros on the back of successful domestic seasons. Romelu Lukaku is the one who leads the line for Belgium. The striker has been in the form of his life as he fired Inter to domestic glory with 24 goals and 11 assists. He was also named the MVP of the Italian league. His hold-up play is complementing his supreme finishing to make him one of the best strikers in the world now.
Best overall: @RomeluLukaku9! 🔝
— Lega Serie A (@SerieA_EN) May 31, 2021
Dries Mertens enjoyed another fine campaign with Napoli in the buildup to the Euros. Though Eden Hazard has been struggling lately, he can be a match-winner in mere seconds on his day. They have added an X-factor in the form of Jeremy Doku a 19-year-old explosive striker.
Their engine room has Kevin de Bruyne potentially the best midfielder in the world now. The maestro won the PFA player of the year in the Premier League and is in his finest form as ever after shaking off injury concerns. He’s well complemented with the likes of Youri Tielemans and Axel Witsel. This midfield is capable of picking the locks of any compact defences.
— Kevin De Bruyne (@DeBruyneKev) June 6, 2021
THE BRAINS OF THE BOSS
Royal Belgian Football Association’s (RBFA) decision to choose Roberto Martinez was one of their best decisions ever. They went out of their way for the first time in almost 60 years by picking a foreign coach. They believed that Martinez who was freshly axed by Everton in 2016 was the right man to lead their golden generation. The Spaniard came in from a neutral viewpoint into Belgiums diverse scenario and won over the country.
Roberto Martinez Stats At Belgium :
🎯 54 Matches
✅ 42 Wins
🤝🏼 8 Draws
❌ 4 Loses
⚽ 158 Goals
🥅 43 Concededs
🥉 Third at World Cup 2018
🏅 First at FIFA Rankings since September 2018 until now. pic.twitter.com/K4Az09j8cp
— ࿙M࿙࿙D࿙࿙S࿙ (@dimasFHVZ) May 27, 2021
Martinez took over from Marc Wilmots as the head coach after Euro 2016. He implemented a simple team nation first strategy in the dressing room to avoid any biased feelings in the camp that a variety of cultures like French, Dutch and German. He ensured that they played as one and won on the field. On the field, he implemented a revolutionary three-man at the back system. A 3-4-3 was made as a norm with its variations 3-5-2 and 3-4-2-1 also used.
They had a thrilling run to the semis at the 2018 World Cup. They have lost only two games in the past two years and taking down everything in their path. Belgium ruthlessly scored 40 goals in Euro qualifying and are flexing their credentials. Roberto Martinez would be fine-tuning his tactics to mastermind a title win at the Euros and add glory to the Golden Generation.
BRITTLE AT THE BACK
It’s so difficult to find holes in this Belgium squad. If you do look with a pessimistic eye you might find its defence to be its chink in the armour. They have players like Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderwiereld at the back who boast massive quality. Given their age, it’s safe to say their best years are past them. Another centre-back in Jason Denayer also has to raise his game.
— Toby Alderweireld (@AlderweireldTob) June 6, 2021
Martinez’s philosophy sees wing-backs fly high during an attack and the defence maintain a high line. This is where pace becomes an important factor. Neither Vertonghen nor Alderwiereld have the legs anymore to win foot races against runners in behind. Denayer possesses great pace but his defensive game is questionable at times. All of them had moderate club seasons and would look to shine at the Euros. Martinez must make sure that he protects his side against counter-attacks and sacrifice attacking fluency for some stability at the back.
NEED A BETTER BENCH
You can really appreciate Belgium’s first team since their bench is being considered as their weakness. It shouldn’t be much of a problem but in today’s world, it is. Top teams like France and Portugal have like for like world-class replacements on the bench. This also plays a key role in helping teams win tournaments.
— Jeremy Doku (@JeremyDoku) June 7, 2021
Belgium have some good names on the bench. What they lack is a clear world-class option for any position on the pitch. Say an untimely injury is to occur Martinez will really struggle to call people off the bench into his system. A rejig in the system itself might be needed. A deeper run into the tournament might definitely pose this question for the Red Devils. This will test Martinez and his Belgian side’s title-winning mentality.