The upcoming Euro 2020 will be a big one for Belgium. The Red Devils’ “golden generation” remain in search of that elusive first major international title, and this tournament will likely be their best opportunity to win it.
Belgium — the No. 1 team in the world according to the FIFA rankings — are one of the top contenders to win the Euros, and rightly so. They were the most impressive side during qualifying as they amassed a perfect 10 wins out of 10 while scoring the most goals (40) and tied for the fewest (3).
Their squad is one of the most talented in the entire field, with world-class quality at nearly every position. They made it to the quarter-finals of the last Euros in 2016 and came even closer in the 2018 World Cup, where they finished in third. But they are not getting any younger, so it’s now or never for the Red Devils.
Will this finally be the year the golden generation get over the hump and deliver some silverware? Allow SBOTOP to lay out the case for why they will (or won’t) do so at Euro 2020.
The Case For BelgiumBelgi
They didn’t call this current crop the “golden generation” for nothing. From goalkeeper down to forward, Belgium boast some impressive talent in their squad, most of whom are still in the prime of their careers.
After a few disappointing seasons, first-choice keeper Thibaut Courtois has rediscovered his best form for Real Madrid this year.
He will have the benefit of playing behind some familiar faces in centre-backs Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen, and Vincent Kompany. Manager Roberto Martinez has preferred to play with a back-three during his time in Belgium and will likely stick with that system.
Their midfield options aren’t as plentiful as they once were, although Axel Witsel and Youri Tielemans are two more than capable operators in the middle of the park.
And of course, there is Kevin De Bruyne. The Manchester City star remains one of the best playmakers in the world and can almost single-handedly orchestrate a team’s attack.
De Bruyne won’t be short of attacking options to pick out, either. Romelu Lukaku may have his fair share of critics, but he still gets goals. At 26 years of age, he is already the country’s all-time leading scorer with 52 international goals in just 84 caps.
Thorgan Hazard is having a fine debut season at Dortmund, while Dries Mertens, Divock Origi, and Michy Batshuayi are all useful options off the bench when in need of a goal.
Belgium have drawn a relatively easy group in the Euros as they will play Russia, Denmark, and Finland. They are massive favourites to win the group and should have few problems doing so.
After that, much will depend on the draw. However, one could argue that except for reigning world champions France, the Euro 2020 news should still have them favoured against any team they meet.
With Germany and Spain both in decline following their previous triumphs and England with some question marks at the back, there are few teams Belgians should be legitimately fearful of.
The Case Against Belgium
However, they could potentially be without one of their most important tools: Eden Hazard. The 29-year-old has had a disastrous season at Real Madrid this year, with injuries derailing his debut campaign.
He will miss the remainder of the season after he recently underwent surgery to repair his fractured ankle. That has put his availability for the Euros in serious doubt, although Martinez remains confident Hazard will return in time.
But even if Hazard does recover and make the squad, it would be a major surprise if he were to instantly rediscover his best form right away.
Belgium’s attack is still capable of producing several Euro 2020 highlights even in Hazard’s absence. However, they will lose that potential game-changing ability, something that is so crucial later in the tournament when Belgium will likely be facing the very best teams and the margins become much tighter.
Meanwhile, some critics will see their ageing defence as a potential weakness. The likes of Alderweireld, Vertongen, Vermaelen, and Kompany are all over 30. The latter two are no longer playing top-level club football, while the former two have not impressed with Spurs this season.
While the Belgian backline let in just three goals in qualifying, the level of opposition they faced was hardly formidable. They could very well get exposed if they come across a team that has the pace to get in behind that defence.
But while much will be made about Hazard’s fitness and availability ahead of the tournament, the defence could end up making or breaking Belgium’s tournament. Their defensive solidity played a major part in their run to the semi-finals in the last World Cup, and it will once again be crucial in the Euros.
Alderweireld and Vertonghen have had disappointing campaigns thus far for Tottenham, though, and if they don’t turn back the clock in the Euros, they could be the ones that cost the golden generation their best shot at glory.
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