Belgium – The true World Cup 2014 dark horse
With footballing affairs at the club level finally having been dealt with and the World Cup fever setting in, the evident task of picking the favourites to lift the cup has started. The usual heavyweights of the likes of Brazil, Germany, Spain and Argentina inevitably crop up in the fray. However a deeper analysis would reveal certain dark horses who have never before been spoken about in the same light in the international football scenario. The pick of the dark horses this time around would be the Belgian national team. This seems to be the golden era in Belgium’s footballing history. The squad is filled with immensely talented youngsters with most of them making their first ever appearance at the grandest stage of football.
Belgium were dealt an early blow as their star striker Christian Benteke was ruled out for the summer with an Achilles injury. They will now look to Romelu Lukaku to shoulder the responsibility and lead the strike force up front and could capitalize on his partnership and chemistry with his Everton teammate Kevin Mirallas. EPL Young Player of the season Eden Hazard and Manchester United prodigy Adnan Januzaj would look to create havoc on both the wings.
Marouane Fellaini and Mousa Dembele in midfield will be a tough wall to break at the center considering the physical nature of their game. Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne and Nacer Chadli are versatile players who could play all across midfield, thus providing coach Marc Wilmots various strategies to experiment with. However a weak link in this midfield line-up is that, though the players are extremely talented individuals and look strong on paper, not all of them are coming into the World Cup after having had a great season at their respective clubs. But surely the arrival of these players at the World Cup stage should inspire spirited performances from all.
At the back Belgium boast of a solid defense line-up led by captain Vincent Kompany with either Thomas Vermaelen or Daniel Van Buyten partnering him in the center. However both Vermaelen and Van Buyten, though experienced senior players, have spent most of their 2013-14 season on the bench and would be rusty. So it is pivotal to Belgium’s plot that they both get back to their prime and lighten Kompany’s load at the back.Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen and Atletico Madrid’s Toby Alderweireld would occupy the left back and right back positions respectively. Another drawback for the defense seems to be the lack of rotating options for these players on the bench which is vital as the tournament progresses and player fatigue sets in. But as long as this back four holds up the Belgium defense would be a tough nut to crack.
If all the names mentioned were not enough to gain the required attention, throw in the incredible goalkeepers this squad has. Gifted youngster Thibaut Courtois has been on a brilliant run of form this season with Atletico Madrid. On the other hand is the seasoned Simon Mignolet who has had a great season himself with Liverpool. Such a situation will surely provide Wilmots with a tough task, to choose between the two, for the first team position.
With such an enormous load of talent in this team, qualifying through to the knockouts shouldn’t be an issue considering that they are placed in a relatively easy group placed alongside Algeria, Russia and South Korea. However the overall vulnerability of Belgium lies in the lack of experience of its players at the World Cup. Also the fitness of the squad would be tested to the core with the team lacking good rotating options on the bench for certain positions. But if this current gifted lot, manage to hold their nerves and play to their true potential, Belgium could go far in the tournament causing major upsets on the way.