Belgium 2022 World Cup Preview: The golden generation’s last chance


Source: Outlook India

FIFA ranking: 2

How they qualified: UEFA qualifying group E winners

2018 World Cup performance: Third place

Previous World Cup appearances: 13

Best result: Third place (2018)



Source: Daily Sabah

Belgium have made it to their third consecutive World Cup, and this is likely to be the golden generation’s final chance to have a real go at world football’s biggest prize. The Red Devils currently sit second in the FIFA rankings, making them the best European side on paper. Many will argue that this is an unfairly high ranking for a team that has only reached a final of a major tournament once in their entire history (Euro 1980).

Belgium go into this winter’s tournament unbeaten in qualifying, the same feat they achieved during the last World Cup’s qualifying when they went all the way to the last four and ultimately collected bronze in Russia. Belgium scored 25 goals in qualifying, conceding only six, and they will feel like they can go at least one better than in 2018 and finally reach their first-ever World Cup final.


The Coach – Roberto Martinez

Source: Getty Images

Roberto Martinez was a defensive midfielder who spent the majority of his playing career in the lower English divisions, primarily at Wigan Athletic and Swansea City. It was at the latter that his managerial career started and following two largely successful seasons at the club, a spell at Wigan Athletic followed. During his time at Wigan, he managed to guide the club to an unlikely FA Cup victory over Manchester City in 2013, however, Wigan still got relegated.

After this relegation, the Spaniard was appointed as the new manager of Everton, and after some mixed results, Martinez was sacked in 2016. Shortly after, he was appointed as the boss of the Belgium national team. Martinez’s tenure at the Red Devils has largely coincided with the nation’s rise to become one of the top European sides in international football, having led Belgium to a third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup and a quarter-final finish at Euro 2020. This winter’s World Cup will likely be Martinez’s last chance to lead Belgium to some silverware, with not only an aging squad but a contract that only runs until the end of the 2022 World Cup.


Key Player – Kevin De Bruyne

Source: Orange Pics BV / Alamy

Kevin De Bruyne is one of the best midfielders in world football and he will get the opportunity to prove it on the big stage this winter. De Bruyne is instrumental at both club and international level, being crucial for creating goals for the team and occasionally popping up with a sensational strike himself. That being said, the 31-year-old has a slightly different role at club level than at international, where he is usually deployed in a more attacking position by Roberto Martinez, and when looking at the attacking options already available to Belgium, it is a real compliment for the midfielder, who plays more as a number 10 for Manchester City.

Not only that, but now at the age of 31, De Bruyne is one of the more senior players in the squad – close to reaching 100 caps – and leads by example, which is especially important with the new generation of Belgian footballers coming through. This World Cup will likely be the last one where De Bruyne and co will be able to meaningfully contribute, and the Premier League assist king will likely play a key part if Belgium are to make it far in Qatar.


Predicted Line-up


World Cup Chances

Source: Reuters

Belgium are the best European side on paper and certainly in contention for winning the 2022 World Cup. However, their group situation means that in order to make it as far as the semi-finals like in 2018, they will most likely have to face Spain or Germany in the round of 16, before Brazil being the likeliest of opponents in the last eight. While in qualification, Belgium have been dominant, going unbeaten in the last three tournament qualifying campaigns, they always lacked the cutting edge to dispatch the best of the best.

While in the 2018 World Cup the Red Devils beat Brazil in the quarter-finals and at Euro 2020 they knocked out Portugal, at both tournaments they were finally defeated by the eventual winners (France in 2018 and Italy in 2020). With a defence made up of 35-year-old Jan Vertonghen and 33-year-old Toby Alderweireld, Belgium will be exposed at the back, with limited inexperienced alternatives in these positions. With the likes of the aforementioned Vertonghen and Alderweireld, as well as Dries Mertens, Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard, and Kevin De Bruyne now all being over 30, the 2022 World Cup will be the Belgian golden generation’s final chance at glory.


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