World Cup 2022 team preview: Last 16 the limit of ageing Belgium golden generation

An ageing Belgium side could struggle to repeat their third-place finish of 2018.

Belgium national football team

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Last year we didn’t much fancy Belgium in their Euro 2020 group, thinking they were a team in decline and Denmark and Russia would both benefit from home advantage against them.

So, we tried to make a little money from this opinion, and offered a much bigger price for them to win the group than any other bookie. We layed absolute bags on them. Naturally, they won every match and only conceded one goal. This year we might be a little sweet on them…

But will Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ be able to get the job done at the World Cup 2022? Paddy Power trader Will Fenwick takes a look.

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Belgium World Cup 2022 qualifying record

With a goal difference of +19 over eight matches, only dropping two points away to Czech Republic in Prague and another two in the last match when Wales needed a point to qualify after ‘The Red Devils’ had already won the group. A strong performance then, but given they had a +37 goal difference in their Euro 2020 and 2018 World Cup qualifying sections, you can see that this ‘golden generation’ is past their best.

Who is the Belgium manager?

You know him – Roberto Martinez. He became a big name after winning the FA Cup with Wigan and getting relegated from the Premier League three days later. This inconsistency obviously appealed to Everton, as they bought him out of his contract and he had one very good season with them before two years of mediocrity that saw him being sacked.

Shortly after, he took the Belgium job and he’s been there for six years now.

Robert Martinez, Belgium manager

Belgium World Cup squad

Belgium like to line up in a 3-4-2-1 with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard behind Inter striker Romelu Lukaku. Youri Tielemans and Axel Witsel should be the two holding players, and Thomas Meunier and either Yannick Carrassco or Thorgan Hazard on the wings. The team employs a great deal of interplay as they advance the ball up the field and try to get it to a central area where De Bruyne or E. Hazard can create an opportunity for themselves or Lukaku, or a wide area where T. Hazard or Meunier can feed in crosses or cut-backs. 

Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld still start for Belgium, although Thomas Vermaelen has retired and is now an assistant coach for Belgium. Dedryck Boyata, Arthur Theate and Zeno Debast are all competing to replace him as starting centre-back.

  • Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels, Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet
  • Defenders: Toby Alderweireld, Zeno Debast, Wout Faes, Arthur Theate, Jan Vertonghen, Timothy Castagne, Thomas Meunier, Yannick Carrasco
  • Midfielders: Thorgan Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Leander Dendoncker, Amadou Onana, Youri Tielemans, Hans Vanaken, Axel Witsel, Charles De Ketelaere
  • Forwards: Jeremy Doku, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Leandro Trossard, Michy Batshuayi, Lois Openda, Romelu Lukaku

Belgium Key Player

Whilst De Bruyne is Belgium’s best player, he’s not their most important one. They have a heap of passing talent in both Hazards, Tielemans, Meunier and Dries Mertens. What they don’t have is a replacement for Romelu Lukaku. Michy Batshuayi, Divock Origi and Christian Benteke just don’t measure up against him. Thibaut Courtios to Simon Mignolet is another big drop in quality, but apart from that, the Belgians have quality back-up every position.

romelu-lukaku

Belgium One to Watch

Jeremy Doku is a pacy, tricky winger who also works hard in a pressing team at Rennes. He’s not a great passer, but his skill with the ball at his feet means that he makes enough space to always find easy passing options. The 20-year-old played his way into the starting XI for Euro 2020, but has since struggled with injuries, missing 30 games from five separate injuries last season. He’s an exciting player to watch, but much more of a creator than a scorer.

Belgium World Cup Prospects

Belgium have a good but aging squad. However, they do benefit from one of the easiest groups, and very likely will have already qualified for the knockouts by the time they face Croatia. However, they’re likely to face Germany or Spain in the Last 16, and will be underdogs if they do.

If Brazil do as well as they are expected to they will have to face them before getting to the final. So it’s a tough draw for this team, and while in recent years they might have expected to make the semi-finals in a major tournament, if they make it this year it’ll be a huge achievement. We think they’ll be knocked out in the last 16.

Belgium World Cup betting tips

Golden Boots are often won in the Group Stage and an easy draw is a huge boost to any player hoping to win it. Lukaku will be taking penalties for Belgium, as well as being their main goal-scoring threat. Because of his well publicised struggles at Chelsea it’s easy to forget that he has 68 goals for Belgium from 102 apps. He’s still lethal when playing in a system that suits him and this Belgian team is certainly that. GOLDEN BOOT: ROMELU LUKAKU

Belgium World Cup Winner Odds

Belgium World Cup 2022 Fixtures

November 23, 7pm: Belgium v Canada (BBC)

November 27, 1pm: Belgium v Morocco (BBC)

December 1, 3pm: Croatia v Belgium (BBC)

CLICK BELOW FOR TEAM PREVIEWS ON BELGIUM’S GROUP F RIVALS

*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change

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