Young talent giving hope to footballing nation who have been stuck in the international wilderness for too long.
The Belgian football team have the potential to be a really top class side in a few years. They have so many young and talented players, more than I can remember them having in my lifetime, and with plenty of time to grow together as a national team, it wouldn’t be a shock at all if they went far in a major tournament years down the line.
The coach. The man responsible for moulding these players into a unit that can compete against the world’s big nations. No stranger to the international scene, Leekens was in charge when the Belgians beat the Republic of Ireland in a play-off to go to France 98 (heartbreaking for me I must say).
Vincent Kompany (24 years old)
One of the better known players in the team. Outstanding for City this year and looks like he’s worth a lot more than the £6m payed for him. Capped as a 17 year old, and 6 years on has a good amount of international experience for one his age. Could play for another 10 years too at CB- the cornerstone of the defence.
Thomas Vermaelen (25 years old)
Again, another player we know all about. Was brilliant for Arsenal upon arrival. Looked solid at the back and scored goals for fun as a defender. Named in the PFA Team of the Year that season but injuries have hampered him as of lately.
Steven Defour (22 years old)
Skipper of the national team and only 22 years old. Has admirers all over the world, from Rafa Benitez to Alex Ferguson. Captain of Standard Liege at only 19 years of old (a bit like Reo-Coker in that respect but thankfully for his sake he’s got a bit more about him). Tough player that can pass, tackle and do a bit of everything in the middle of the park. His main asset seems to be his leadership. An inspiration in the midfield, and the driving force of this team.
Marouane Fellaini (23 years old)
A player who divides opinion. Cost Everton £15m and United were in for him too. Tough tackling, an aerial threat, and again a decent level of experience on the international scene. Should only get better, and there has reportedly been interest recently from Real Madrid and Chelsea
Jan Vertonghen (23 years old)
Left sided player that can operate in defence or in midfield. Versatile as you can see, a big strong lad and has been praised as a fantastic prospect by no less than Johan Cruyff. Unlikely to stay at Ajax for long.
Axel Witsel (22 years old)
Another member of that Standard Liege side that pushed Liverpool all the way in the Champions League qualifying round a few years ago (along with Defour and Fellaini). For those who don’t remember, Liverpool were on the ropes until Dirk Kuyt bailed them out very late on. A bit of a fiery temper, but a good footballer nonetheless. Pacey and a threat going forward, his versatility is another bonus to the Belgians.
Eden Hazard (20 years old)
“Eden who?” you might ask. 2 time young player of the year in France. Wanted by nearly every club out there but looks likely to go to Arsenal, despite being personally recommended to Real Madrid by Zidane. Lightning quick, ability to beat a player, good set piece delivery, and doesn’t shirk his defensive responsibilities. All the credentials to be the superstar of this team and one of the most exciting players in the world
Romelu Lukaku (17 years old)
17 years old but bullies defenders that are unfortunate enough to come up against him. An absolute beast of a…. man? Already 10 goals in 18 games in the league this season; this kid is the real deal. When his services become available, expect Anderlecht to make a fortune off him and expect whoever payed it to have money well spent. Already prolific at this young age, has been touted as the next Drogba. Also has a younger brother who is apparently making a name for himself already.
The list goes on. Moussa Dembele (23) who has been great for Fulham this year, young Dedryck Boyata (20) at Man City, Anthony Vanden Borre (23) etc. As you can see they have many talented footballers. Another thing worth noting is that as well as being able to play good football, every player I mentioned bar Hazard is 6 foot or over. A lot of them are good headers, and so as you can see with little Hazard on set piece duty, they are a threat from these set plays. The lack of a truly top class goalkeeper is the biggest concern for this team.
This is a golden generation for Belgium, better than their team of the late 80’s. It would be a shame if they don’t live up to their promise, but I think they should be knocking on the door in the latter stages of major competitions in this years to come.