As Belgium prepare to meet France in this year’s World Cup semi-final, a question could weigh heavily on their minds. Can they finally meet lofty expectations?
This group of players have been constantly described as the Red Devils’ Golden Generation. And this will arguably be their best ever chance at winning a World Cup.
The likes of Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini, Jan Vertonghen, and Toby Alderweireld will all be well into their thirties by the time Qatar rolls around in 2022.
But major stars like Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku are all still reasonably young. And that trio will be at the forefront of their assault in four years’ time.
There’s also another emerging crop of prodigious talents to supplement any senior exits post-Russia. The likes of Youri Tielemans, Dennis Praet, Jordan Lukaku, and Leander Dendoncker are all primed to be big players in the next few years.
In many respects, Belgium have the perfect blend to their current squad. Grizzled veterans like Kompany and Vertonghen interweaved with supreme talents in De Bruyne and Hazard are a heady mix.
After all, he managed it so spectacularly when at Wigan Athletic. The ex-Everton boss took the Latics all the way to FA Cup glory, incredibly beating Manchester City in the 2013 final.
The Spaniard’s reputation suffered on these shores after his Toffees’ exit. His tactics shipped regular criticism for being too gung-ho in the Premier League.
But it could also be true that Martinez is the perfect coach to extract the best from Belgium’s aces. His penchant for attacking football provides the perfect platform for this group of players. And Lukaku and co. have top-scored in Russia with 14 team goals.
But can he carry them the whole way? A host of the major nations have fallen by the wayside now. A win over France will mean a final against one of England or Croatia.
Bobby and his Belgians will know a win over Les Bleus will make them favourites heading into Sunday’s showpiece finale.
Hazard, De Bruyne, and Lukaku will get another shot at glory come what may. But for Belgium’s Golden Generation, this is their moment. Can they seize it?
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