World Cup 2014 Team-by-Team Guide: Belgium expectations too high

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Past tournaments: 1930, 1934, 1938, 1954, 1970, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2014

Previous Best: Fourth Place, 1986

How they got here:

Much of the hype that currently follows the Belgian plane to Brazil is based around their performances in the qualification process.

Breezing through their 10 games unbeaten, Marc Wilmots’ men won eight of those outings and triumphed in all but one of their away games to nil.

Star man: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Although he had little influence in Belgium reaching the World Cup, scoring just two goals and laying on the same number for teammates, much is expected from Hazard in Brazil.

Having enjoyed a superb season with Chelsea this term, Hazard’s name has started to be mentioned as a future Ballon d’Or winner. There’s no better way to increase that kind of chatter than with a stellar display on the biggest stage of all.

Watch some of Hazard’s highlights in a Belgium shirt

Under the radar: Kevin de Bruyne (Wolfsburg)

The Belgian squad is full to the brim of Premier League talent, but arguably their best player during qualifying was cast aside by Chelsea without a second thought.

De Bruyne didn’t have much chance to show his talent at Stamford Bridge, but led his country in both goals and assists as the Red Devils booked their spot in Brazil, tallying four in each category while playing the number 10 role.

DeBruyne-sticker

Team nutcase: Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)

He may have been derided for crimes against football by every armchair fan in the land, but they wouldn’t want to tell him to his face after seeing just how freely he likes to swing his limbs at opponents.

Pablo Zabaleta, Dan Gosling and Ryan Shawcross have all been on the other end of flying elbows, fists or hair from the midfielder who, in the case of Zabaleta, claimed his opponent ran onto the pointy part of his arm.

Fellaini 1 Zabaleta 0

How far can they go?

Belgium’s vaunted squad has no major tournament experience bar Daniel van Buyten, making them either a dark horse or red herring in Brazil.

The ease of Group H means the Belgian hype won’t settle down after the first round, as 4/6 suggests they’ll be easy group winners. However, either Germany or Portugal will likely face them in the round of 16, where the real test will come. They’ll fail it.

To win the World Cup: 16/1

Best bet: Belgium to exit in the second round – 6/5

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.