Belgium’s Red Devils are ready to conquer Europe
Chocolates and waffles define Belgium, but over the next few years, football should get it's fair share of the limelight.
It is not unremarkable to think about Belgium only when one sees an expensive chocolate lying in the best corner of the shop, alone due to its outrageous price-tag however famous it may be. One might say that the country itself is more talked about for its waffles, beer and of course, the diminutive though dangerous Tintin, but the next few years are going to put the country in the limelight totally for football reasons.
The Belgian national football team is nicknamed the Red Devils. But that is not the only surprise they spring when you look at their incredible team sheet. It may be too early to say that they are entering a Golden Generation of players, but I just cannot help myself half-supporting them for the upcoming European Championships in 2012.
Geographically pinned alongside heavyweights France, Germany and Netherlands, they never stood out much for sport apart from the Bosman ruling (the landmark case which now allows players to leave clubs for free at the end of their contract). But this can now be put aside if they qualify for the tournament and produce some of the magic I have seen their players perform across Europe.
Having met a couple Belgians while studying my Masters, they did not reflect a ‘gone are the days’ attitude, reminiscing about greats like Jean-Marie Pfaff and Enzo Scifo or the disallowed goal against eventual 2002 World Cup winners Brazil. They radiated more of a ‘here we come!’ attitude, looking forward to a team brimming with talent and wanted by all the big clubs.
I am myself a bit taken aback at how I knew a lot of players who were stars within their own rights and how I ignored the fact that they were from this country. Starting from behind, stalwarts in their respective positions are Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany and Arsenal’s solid Thomas Vermaelen. No doubt Arsene Wenger was after Jan Vorthengen and Bolton grabbed the opportunity to loan Dedryck Boyata from City. The backline looks solid, in fact if Bayern Munich’s Van Buyten regains composure, he can align them well with his 6 foot 6 inch frame. And these are only the famous names.
If midfield is where the game is decided, then the King Bedouin Stadium has seen the emergence of stars like Everton’s holding midfielder/striker Marouane Fellaini. Surely his hair-do and goals were worth the record breaking £15 million the Blues paid for him. Football fans who follow the gossip columns in English tabloids must have surely heard Stefen Defour’s name crop up, linked famously with Manchester United and who now plays for FC Porto. Alex Witsel is another one in the making.
But the stars of the show will undoubtedly be two top quality players: firstly, Eden Hazard of Lille, who has been the subject of i-don’t-know-how-many bids from Real Madrid, Barcelona and the the Big Four in the BPL.
Secondly, the inspiring and ultra creative midfielder in the mould of Kaka, Kevin de Bruyne of Genk -- Chelsea did not hide their interest in the player recently and we might see him make a big move sooner rather than later. Genk, being the intelligent dealers are just waiting for his price to rocket after a big tournament, much like how Werder Bremen waited in Mesut Ozil’s case.
While describing these players, I am not even getting into the detail of their incredible stats, but I shall make an exception when it comes to Romelu Lukaku. After a series of ‘the next so-and-so’, the media has finally got this one right. He is, surely, the next Didier Drogba (let us not forget Adel Taraabt was touted as the next Zidane) and he plays at Chelsea. So if one cannot catch a glimpse of the rest of the players mentioned here, this hulk of a player is only 18 and has tons of goals to his name for 30-time Belgian Champions Anderlecht. Lest I forget, Mousa Dembele is playing for London rivals Fulham and showing some glimpses of class.
What is rather astonishing is that all these players are under the age of 25 years! With age on their side and some of the best coaches biting at their ankles, there is an unlimited tap of potential waiting to unleash on the international stage. I haven’t even got into the nitty gritty of it and how all this happened! To put it in one line… it is a very basic approach to football; less money at clubs, less pressure to win, more chance of producing your own talent….simple.
Not only are the European Championships a fair bet, I guess Belgium may succeed in qualifying for the World Cup in 2014… especially if little brothers Thorgen and Kyllian Hazard are as successful and Jordan Lukaku (already 6 foot something at 16 years of age) begins to shine.
By the way, Belgium also developed the offside trap…unbelievable? Believe it.
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