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Countdown 29: Can Kompany’s Belgium emulate ’86 golden generation?

Countdown 29: Can Kompany’s Belgium emulate ’86 golden generation?
May 19
20:43 2014

The biggest stage is where he loves to be; and with the World Cup up in a month’s time and fresh from lifting the English Premiership title with Manchester City, Vincent Kompany is ready for the challenge to lead arguably the tournament’s most star-studded side.

At 28 years, the Manchester City captain is at his peak; and as often seen at his club, the national team is incomplete without him in defence.

The former Hamburg of Germany utility man is a solid, well-composed centre back who can also chip in goals at the other end like a striker. Although injury-prone, the sturdy defender of a Congolese immigrant father rarely misses games for his country; and the fans will hope this continues at the World Cup.

Belgium have taken part in 11 FIFA World Cup™ final tournaments and were an ever-present force between 1982 and 2002, but it was in 1986 that they made their mark on the tournament. Fielding their first golden generation of stars, which included ‘keepers Jean-Marie Pfaff and Eric Gerets, proven goal-scorer Jan Ceulemans, and skilful midfielder Enzo Scifo, Belgium pushed all the way but were stopped by eventual winners, Argentina, at the semi-final stage.

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Belgium have been in a downward spiral ever since; and after a lull of 12 years, Les Diables Rouges (the Red Devils) are back in Brazil for their 12th appearance — backed by another golden generation of stars who ply their trade in some of the biggest clubs in Europe. This theory is backed by their undefeated qualifying campaign, where they topped a group that had Croatia and Serbia, dropping points only in their first game and in their final game when qualification was already assured.

Their impressive qualification campaign saw them surge up the FIFA rankings from 53rd at the start of qualifiers to fifth by the time they had booked their ticket. This earned them seeding status for the finals draw, and a relatively easy group comprising Russia, South Korea, and Algeria.

Rarely has the phrase “dark horses” been wrongly used; but in the Belgian case, it is being trumpeted. The European nation can call upon an armada of stars from the established to the new on the block — all plying their trade in Europe’s most prestigious championships — to defeat any big nation on paper.

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Eden Hazard, Thomas Vermaelen, Axel Witsel, Kevin Mirallas, Marouane Fellaini Steven Defour, Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne have all bonded so well, led by Captain Kompany.

Manager Marc Wilmots is spoilt for choice, and has the luxury of two quality players for each position. A silky schemer in his football days, Wilmots veered into politics but returned to management, and was assistant national team coach from 2009 to May 2012 when he completely took over the affairs of the team. Although he took over a talented squad, the 44-year old coach’s pragmatic approach has been credited with the spirit, belief, discipline and tactical nous to accommodate his many stars the team oozes.

Strength

Wilmots has accommodated many stars into the team, but Eden Hazard will be needed to conjure up magic against the big boys for Belgium to really go farther in the tournament. The Chelsea winger and playmaker is gradually being compared to Cristiano Ronaldo and Mess;i and when fully fit, he is unstoppable. A return of 19 goals, 10 assists and some mesmerizing displays in over 60 games this season will be expected from the 26-year-old in Brazil, if Belgium would really take the World by storm.

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Weakness

It is hard to see where this team is lacking with their many stars, but their Achilles heel is in the full back positions. Also, Kompany’s susceptibility to injury could harm their prospects; while upfront, Christian Benteke’s injury will see Lukaku as the only major striker, which could prove decisive.

Last line

The media is awash with predictions that 2018 would be Belgium’s time to shine. However, I think the world is about to witness a team brimming with quality and confidence from front to back ­­— one that WILL go all the way. The only Achilles heel could be the lack of tournament experience, but the vast experience of captain and coach could quell this factor. From Belgium, the world is possibly about to witness something great!

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1 Comment

  1. victor o
    victor o May 20, 18:12

    The Belgians were I think the very 1st to qualify for world cup in europe. They would be a major obstacle to ambitious teams but won’t go beyond the quarter finals. I’d love to follow them and see their progress

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