A Second exclusive by EADF Guest writer Kartik Lal.
As an avid football fan, the summer of 2017 was exhilarating and pretty intense, We saw transfer records getting broken left right and centre. Teams like Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and United, Everton, Liverpool have broken their transfer records in the Premier League along with other European heavyweights like Bayern, Barcelona, PSG and AC Milan just to name a few. A stage in football economics has been reached where any above average player could command a fee of 50 million+. While these transfers promises a thrilling season of football across all leagues and in the Champions League, there is something much bigger and exciting to look forward to next summer, The World Cup.
A round of qualification just finished this week and the teams who have secured their participation are- Russia, Brazil, Japan, Iran, Belgium, Mexico, South Korea, Saudi Arabia. The aura and atmosphere of a World Cup and it is the biggest stage where a player can announce his arrival, just look at players like Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and James Rodriguez in recent times, or cement themselves as one of the all time greats. At EADF we’re going to be writing preview articles on each team and their crucial players as and when these times qualify, starting with Belgium.
10 years ago, would we consider Belgium to be a powerhouse dominating European leagues? Not at all, and that’s the beauty of this team. Over the past 5 or 6 years this country as been churning out footballing talent and they don’t look like stopping soon. In their last outing at the World Cup, they put up a respectable showing but were beaten in the quarters by a resolute Argentina. At that time the team was relatively young and didn’t have much experience on the international front, however now they absolutely dominated their group winning 7 out of 8 games and scoring 35 goals in the process. If this is anything to judge them on I think all viewers are in for a treat next summer watching these talented players all playing on the same pitch.
One of the main reasons behind the rise of this footballing country is the attention and training given to the players in the younger set ups. Players like Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco, Thibaut Courtios and Christian Benteke were all nurtured at KRC Genk FC- one of the prominent clubs in Belgium. Michel Sablon, current technical director of football for Belgium( who was also part of the coaching team in the 1998 World Cup) was the pioneer behind the revolution in Belgian Football , starting his movement after the disastrous showing in 1998. Bob Browaeys, who has coached Belgium youth teams at every level and played a major part in putting together Sablon’s blueprint started by tapping into philosophies and training methods in the national setups in Netherlands and France, their neighbours in the north and south, as well as at clubs such as Ajax and Barcelona, Browaeys and his colleagues proposed that every Belgium youth team would play 4-3-3 and that work should begin on producing a totally different type of player“It was a massive shift but we believed that 4-3-3, at that moment, was the strongest learning environment for our players,” Browaeys said “We felt that we had to develop dribbling skills, we said at the heart of our vision was 1v1, the duel. We said when a boy or girl wants to start playing football, you must offer first the dribble, let them play freely.” 20 years looking at the abundance of talent in their team the Belgians have a lot to thank these 2 for.
Some of the players who Belgium will be backing on to lead them to glory-
Thibaut Courtios – The giant of a goalkeeper currently plying his trade at Chelsea, is widely considered to be one of the most talented goalkeepers in the world and with some stellar displays at Athletico Madrid when on loan and now Chelsea having won the league twice in the last 2 years with Courtios at the back, its safe to say hes lived up to the high expectations everyone has of him. The World Cup has always been a stage for keepers to shine ( Think Oliver Kahn, Gianluigi Buffon, Manuel Neuer) Despite still being relatively young Courtios has a lot of experience at the top level football – being a serial league winner and also guiding Atleti to the UCL finals in 2014
Vincent Kompany– When he’s fit, Kompany is hands down one of the centre backs in the world. His brilliant reading of the game and exceptional ball playing abilities simply compliment his supreme physical attributes. Over the past few years Manchester City’s success can be linked to his stellar performances at the heart of defence. An injury free Kompany will be vital to Belgium’s showing next year. Beside him he has the inform Toby Alderweirald and Jan Vertonghen who would certainly profit from his leadership and experience at the highest levels.
Eden Hazard– Hazard has established himself as one of the poster boys of the Premier League with his dazzling footwork and all round attacking capabilities. Whether its scoring mazy goals himself or bringing the best out of the attackers around him, The little Belgian has successfully completed the transition from a young boy with potential to a world beater. It will certainly be a pleasure watching him play with talented midfielders like Kevin De Bruyne, Dries Mertens and Yannick Carrasco.He has won the Chelsea player of the year thrice since his arrival, made it to the PFA team of the year 4 times in his 5 seasons in England and also won the accolade for PFA’s best player in 2014-2015. After his first training session at Chelsea, Frank Lampard told him he has the world at his feet and fast forward 5 years later, the stage is set for him.
Romelu Lukaku – Wherever Romelu Lukaku has played he has brought goals along with him. One of the most feared hitman in England, he has shown his striking abilities at West Brom, Everton and now Manchester United- He has scored 110 goals in all competitions over the last 5 seasons- a really impressing stat for any striker. This summer he was one of the hottest and most talked about players this transfer window. A solid season at Manchester United which looks pretty likely will certainly boost Belgium’s chances to impress at the World cup. A physical specimen equally adept with the ball at his feet, his goals could take the team really far.
Feature Image Via Wikipedia
Team Image Via IB Time India
Hazard Image Via Evening Standard
Lukaku Image Via Static Pulse