FIFA ranking: 3
How they qualified: Finished top of UEFA qualifying group H
World Cup appearances: 12
Best result: 4th place (1986)
Belgium was never one of international football’s top dogs until recent times. Not counting the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, The Red Devils only managed to get past the round of 16 once, in 1986 in Mexico when they achieved their best ever finish – fourth. Fast forward to 2018 and Belgium have one of the most talented teams, not only in Europe but across the world. A huge chunk of their squad is plying their trade in the best league in the world – the Premier League. With star players in every position, such as: Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Radja Nainggolan, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku just to name a few, Belgium’s golden generation reached the World Cup in Russia with ease, finishing top of their qualifying group with 28 points (joint-second highest behind Germany) and scoring a whopping 43 goals (joint-highest alongside Germany).
The former Everton and Swansea coach was a somewhat surprising candidate to replace Marc Wilmots in 2016, having coached solely at club level in England, but the Spaniard guided an unbeaten Belgium side to the finals.
Speedy, skillful and a master at both creating and scoring goals, Hazard is one of the most exciting forwards in world football. The Chelsea star served up six goals and five assists during Belgium’s impressive qualifying campaign. After being named captain at the 2016 European championships in France at Vincent Kompany’s absence; Hazard has not looked back, and he now has that added responsibility that can help him drive Belgium’s golden generation to finally live up to the hype.
World Cup Chances
After reaching the Quarter-finals of the last two major tournaments, Belgium fans can be very optimistic about their chances in Russia. In a group that also includes 1966 winners England, Tunisia and newbies Panama, The Red Devils are expected to at least get second spot; with many suggesting that they can even finish top of group G. Belgium has arguably one of the best squad depths in the world, with world-class players in every position, a coach that has extensive experience of managing at top level, a big-name assistant in Thierry Henry, and a squad full of some of the best players in the world, the scene is set for Belgium’s golden generation to claim gold this summer.
Who else but this man again? Ever since Eden Hazard joined the elite club with his performances for Chelsea, he has been consistently linked with top clubs like PSG and Real Madrid, and it is the Los Blancos that are thought to be interested in the Belgian this summer yet again. However, it is understood that the La Liga club have yet to make any form of inquiry to Chelsea or the Belgium international’s entourage and are not in any rush to do so. Chelsea are reluctant to sell the 27-year-old and will demand a transfer fee well in excess of £100million for his signature. Is this just another rumour, or can we be expecting to see Eden Hazard turning out in the famous white jersey next season?