Belgium will enter the upcoming Euro as the number 1 ranked team in the world. Why have they been given the top spot ahead of the likes of France and Portugal? Despite not winning any major tournament recently, Belgium have been really strong outside of the major tournaments which also have decent runs in the last World Cup and the Euros.
Belgium’s 2016 quarter final loss to Wales was a crushing defeat as they should have reached the semi-finals at least. In 2018, they lost to eventual champions France in the semi-finals which is more digestible. Belgium are a really strong side, one of the best in the world but they do not have the luxury of some other countries like France or Germany.
If France and Germany do not win the Euros, they will know for a fact that they can win it the next time or perhaps after that but that’s not the same case with the Three Lions. This is Belgium’s golden generation; they have never had the quality of Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard. Many will argue that this and the upcoming World Cup might be the best opportunities for Belgium to lift silverware as their star players are becoming older.
Kevin de Bruyne (29), Eden Hazard (30), Dries Mertens (34) and Romelu Lukaku (28) are all in their late 20s or early 30s. For Hazard and Mertens, these 2 tournaments could be their last ever because of injuries, age, etc. Their backline of Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelan are all into their 30s and are no longer as physically gifted as they once were.
Belgium do not have much time on their hands. They have some quality young players like Youri Tielemans, Leander Dendoncker, Jason Denayer and Jeremy Doku coming through the ranks but it is easy to see why the Belgium golden generation is declining ever so slowly.
Roberto Martinez has a task at hand and that is to deliver a major trophy in the next 2 years. He has the players to do it and if he fails to do so, decades later we will be talking of golden generation of players who didn’t win anything.