Factfile on Belgium who are in World Cup Group F:
Best World Cup performance: Third place (2018).
Other major honours: None (Euro 1980 runners-up).
FIFA ranking: 2.
Main clubs: Anderlecht, Club Brugge.
How they qualified: Winners of European qualifying Group E.
Coach: Roberto Martinez (ESP) – The 49-year-old has enjoyed six strong years in charge but is yet to deliver an elusive first major tournament title. Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ reached the World Cup semi-finals for only the second time in Russia but came up short against France. This year could be the final chance for Martinez’s current squad to emerge on top, with several important players already in their 30s. Martinez has an excellent 72.4 win percentage as Belgium boss but has still only lifted one major trophy in his management career — the 2013 FA Cup while with Wigan Athletic.
Key player: Kevin De Bruyne – The Manchester City midfielder finished third in the recent Ballon d’Or voting and will be Belgium’s go-to man when in need of inspiration. Injury-prone captain Eden Hazard has only made 11 starts for Real Madrid since the start of last season and striker Romelu Lukaku has struggled for full fitness since returning to Inter Milan on loan from Chelsea. De Bruyne scored a career-best 19 goals for English champions City last term and has already notched 12 assists this campaign following the signing of Erling Haaland.
Expectations and key players according to Yanko Beeckman, Nieuwsblad:
“The expectations for the Belgian national team are slightly lower than in previous years, because our so-called golden generation is getting older and many players are gradually past their peak. There still seems to be plenty of talent in the attack, but it is mainly about the defense that many people are concerned. It is getting slower and slower. Roberto Martinez is also criticized for putting too little effort into rejuvenating the team.”
“With Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne we still have two players who are among the very best in the world in their field. There is a lot of pressure on their shoulders. A lot is also expected of Romelu Lukaku, but he is struggling with a hamstring injury. The medical staff does everything they can to get him ready. It is expected that he will only be able to play from the third group match.”
November 23: Belgium v Canada.
November 27: Belgium v Morocco.
December 1: Croatia v Belgium.
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid/ESP), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg/GER).
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Royal Antwerp), Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht), Zeno Debast (Anderlecht), Leander Dendoncker (Aston Villa/ENG), Wout Faes (Leicester City/ENG), Arthur Theate (Rennes/FRA).
Midfielders: Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Timothy Castagne (Leicester City/ENG), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Axel Witsel (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City/ENG), Amadou Onana (Everton/ENG), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid/ESP).
Forwards: Eden Hazard (Real Madrid/ESP), Leandro Trossard (Brighton/ENG), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan/ITA), Michy Batshuayi (Fenerbahce/TUR), Charles De Ketelaere (AC Milan/ITA), Lois Openda (Lens/FRA), Jeremy Doku (Rennes/FRA), Dries Mertens (Galatasaray/TUR).
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