Belgium were spellbinding against England, but next year’s European Championships may be the last chance of glory for their golden generation
- Belgium’s shock and awe double against England was their team in a nutshell
- They’re bursting with individual brilliance, but will they win silverware soon?
- Belgium’s golden generation are aging, with many players nearing 30 or over
- CLICK HERE for the full match report from Belgium’s win over England
English football knows all about Golden generations. This spellbinding Belgium team is currently wandering a similar path.
Bursting with individual brilliance, oozing with style, backed up with substance.
England’s players may have been shell-shocked by falling two goals behind inside 25 minutes.
Is time running out for Belgium’s golden generation to finally capture some silverware?
Belgium are spellbinding at their best, but nothing lasts for long in international football
But no-one else was. This is what Belgium are capable of, give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.
Give them an opportunity and they’ll destroy you. Eric Dier probably thought ‘no harm done’ when his pass into Mason Mount was intercepted by former team-mate Jan Vertonghen.
Seconds later Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemens, albeit via a deft deflection off Tyrone Mings, was firing Belgium ahead – ironically in a stadium owned by his club’s Thai rulers.
Similarly, when Declan Rice conceded a dubious free-kick around 25 yards out, he probably thought it would take something pretty special to beat Jordan Pickford.
Unfortunately for Rice, and England, the Belgians have special footballers in abundance.
Belgium beat England, and all without arguably their best player Eden Hazard
Everyone expected Kevin de Bruyne to step up; instead it was Dries Mertens, just a few hundred yards from the house he grew up in, who strode to the forefront to beautifully stroke his free-kick beyond the despairing Pickford.
Just like that, the game – in the 23rd minute – was over, as was England’s involvement in the UEFA Nations League.
It was Belgium in a nutshell. Exceptional and ruthless. It’s exactly why Roberto Martinez’s side are ranked world No 1.
And remember, all this without arguably their best player – Eden Hazard.
So with that said, it seems incredible to think this team are facing some uncomfortable questions back home.
No-one doubts their potential, of course. There are, however, murmurings over their achievements.
Heralded as the best crop of players Belgium have ever produced, the fact remains the nation remain trophyless.
They are the world’s number one ranked team, but there is unrest at home about trophies
Their third place finish at World Cup 2018 is certainly no mean feat. But who really ever remembers bronze medallists?
Martinez will also argue his team’s position as world No 1 is a lofty achievement in itself. And he’d have a strong argument; indeed it was only last year that England manager Gareth Southgate challenged his team to top FIFA’s rankings during a team meeting at St George’s Park.
But don’t kid yourself; trophies are the true currency of greatness. Medals are what players judge their careers on.
And this team – much like England’s Golden generation of the 2000s – are potless.
They will have a prime opportunity to fulfil their potential at next summer’s European Championships.
They’ll head into the delayed Euro 2020 as the favourites. With the players at their disposal, you wouldn’t bet against them.
And who knows, they could go on to lift the Nations League trophy, this result leaves them firmly on course to do so.
Players on the team are aging, so will the squad still be together when the World Cup arrives?
But what if it it doesn’t go according to plan. What if they flop at the Euros? What if their Nations League campaign ends in yet more tournament disappointment?
What happens then?
It’s a scenario this Belgium squad simply won’t want to acknowledge. Five of last night’s starting XI were 29 or older. Hazard will be 30 by the time the tournament starts.
Who’s to say this squad will not disband before the next World Cup in Qatar comes around.
That’s the nature of international football, teams and squads evolve – before you know it your time has been and gone.
For a number of this Belgian team, the Euros may represent their final opportunity of international glory.
A golden chance for Belgian’s Golden generation.
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