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World Cup 2018: Belgium, dark horses or underachievers

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816   //    06 Jun 2018, 20:19 IST

Belgium vs Portugal
The Belgian national team

Belgium have gone into the last two big tourneys - Euro 2016 and World Cup 2014 as dark horses, and have come out no better.

They can be forgiven for their quarter final loss to a superior Argentina in Brazil. But they really should have beaten Wales at the same stage on French soil. Gearing up for Russia 2018, what can we expect from the Red Devils?

They have an experienced squad with 18 out of the current 23 having been part of either the 2014 or 2016 squads and as many as 12 having been a apart of both.

Their average age might not be much but this group of footballers have been playing together on the international stage for a long long time. And this might just be their best shot at World Cup glory, four years is a long time in football and by the time Qatar beckons some of them might be past their prime.

Belgium vs Portugal
Eden Hazard - Talisman

What also works in their favour is that a lot of their players compete regularly for top European clubs day in and day out.

Group G should be a cake walk with only England providing some sort of resistance. Their round of 16 fixture likely to be against Senegal should be an exciting attacking affair but you would bet on the Red Devils to go through.

They are arguably certain to reach the dreaded quarters again, and that might prove to be their undoing, with a potential clash against Brazil.

My call is that if they beat Neymar's Brazil, they have a very good chance of going all the way. A win against arguably the biggest footballing nation of them all should give them enough confidence and inner belief to motor along.

They have a starting eleven which can rival that of any top European club. Thibaut Courtois in goal shielded by Thomas Vermaelen, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Meunier. They have steel in the middle of the park, in the form of Mousa Dembele and Axel Witsel.

Belgium  v Portugal  -International Friendly
KDB - Maestro

The creative genius of Kevin De Bruyne, the attacking flair of Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens with Romelu Lukaku upfront to provide the goals. And you have Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Marouane Fellaini and Michy Batshuayi likely to come off the bench.

How does a team with so many match winners not start as favourites in any tournament? It all comes down to how Roberto Martinez is able to get the best out of them, and if the group can collectively believe that they can actually win this.

Big stages need big players and this team needs to rally around the likes of KDB, Hazard and Lukaku. They need to trust their attacking instincts, play to their strengths and not worry too much about who they are up against.

If their attacking triumvirate finds form in Russia, then this might just be the year when they shed the tag of dark horses and actually achieve their full potential.

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