FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: Belgium to finally win a World Cup?

By Ben Kelly
Can Belgium's golden generation finally deliver in Qatar?
Can Belgium's golden generation finally deliver in Qatar?   -   Copyright  Andreas Gebert/AP

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Often dubbed as one of the most talented footballing nations never to win a World Cup, Belgium are heading into this year’s tournament looking to finally get that monkey off their backs.

The tale of the last 10 years has been ‘close, but not close enough’ from a Belgian perspective, and there are worries that a golden generation of top class players are going to finish their international careers trophyless. Players such as Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois are all superstars with multiple honours for their respective clubs, but is this the last chance for Belgium manager Roberto Martinez to guide them to international glory? The locals at home aren’t too optimistic about the chances of success.

“The expectations in Belgium aren’t that high,” revealed Kristof Terreur, European Football Correspondent for 5Live, “I already see some people already saying that we won't survive the group stage because we don't have an easy group with Canada and Morocco; teams that could always surprise you. And then there is also Croatia, of course.”

“I think if we made it into the quarter finals, that will already be a success. So that's the highest we can get. If we reach the semi-finals or final, that will be a huge surprise for us.”
Kristof Terreur
Belgian Football Expert

Belgium’s Group/route to Lusail

Belgium are the main attraction of Group F, which also includes Morocco, Canada and Croatia. The game against Croatia on matchday three will be incredibly difficult, and both teams will be hoping they can book their route into the knockout stages by taking sufficient points in their other two games.

Croatia were the runners up at the 2018 World Cup, losing 4-2 to France in Moscow in the final. It was a bit of a surprise that they managed to make it that far, but it means that no one should be underestimating them this winter. Much like Belgium, Croatia have a squad that might just be about to decline, but we can still expect the game between them to be very competitive.

“Croatia are always, always a tough team to beat,” explained Terreur, “they set up well. It's going to be a close game and I think Belgium will have to be at their top, top level to beat them, unless we have already qualified by winning the first two games.”

Martin Meissner/Copyright 2018 The AP. All rights reserved
Croatia celebrate scoring in the 2018 World Cup FinalMartin Meissner/Copyright 2018 The AP. All rights reserved

Prior to playing Croatia, Belgium must first overcome Morocco and Canada. The 'Red Devils' have little experience playing both teams, having only played four games in total against both sides. The only competitive meeting between the Belgians and either of them was in 1994, against Morocco at the World Cup.

The Canadians are heading to their first tournament for 36 years, so have not got a lot of experience on the world stage. But again, they will also be determined to not be simply making up the numbers. Their star player is Bayern Munich superstar Alfonso Davies, who burst onto the scene in 2020 during Bayern’s Champions League winning campaign that season.

Key Players

As previously mentioned, the calibre of players featuring for Belgium nowadays can strike fear into any opposition. Kevin De Bruyne is their star asset in midfield and is widely regarded as one of the best in his position in world football. He can provide the service for the man ahead of him, Romelu Lukaku, who is one of the most dangerous strikers in the world.

But one player who they’ll be looking towards to return to top form is Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard. A move to Real Madrid in 2019 has proven to not go exactly to plan for the forward, but everyone knows that when he is in the right mood, he’s one of the most exciting talents in world football.

“Since Real Madrid, since his injury struggles, nobody at this moment expects a lot from him anymore” revealed Terreur.

Still, he has a different class that other players don't have. Like I'm not going to say he's irreplaceable because we have other players that can play in this position, but sometimes you need a spark of class like he has.”

Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
Eden Hazard featuring for Belgium in a recent UEFA Nations League matchGeert Vanden Wijngaert/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

With previous tournament failures being put behind them, Belgium have to go all-out for the final shot at glory for this golden generation of players. Can they come to Qatar and create a big impact? Only time will tell.

Journalist • Ben Kelly