Are Belgium ready to fulfil their potential?

In my opinion Belgium are probably the biggest underachievers in world football.

It is not so much that Belgium haven’t been successful it is in fact that they have not fulfilled their potential. With the players that Belgium have and have had in their squad it is unbelievable that they have only qualified for the World Cup on eleven out of a possible nineteen occasions and the European Championship on a dismal four out of fourteen occasions.

The Belgium national football team, nicknamed ‘the Red Devils’, first qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1930 before going on to secure consecutive qualification in the 1934 and 1938 World Cup tournaments. At the time they became a force in world football, being one of only three teams in Europe (the others being France and Romania) to qualify for three successive competitions, however this was not to last.

Post-World War II, Belgium’s presence in the World Cup started to fade and after withdrawing, along with a number of European teams, from the 1950 World Cup they only appeared in the tournament once in the next four competitions.

After a lengthy spell out of the World Cup the Red Devils returned to the competition in 1970 only to be knocked out in the first round.

However two years after their latest World Cup fail, Belgium qualified for their first European Championship in 1972. Belgium, who hosted the competition, finished third out four teams. Although this tournament was miniscule in terms of what the EUROs are today, this third-place finish is still classed as Belgium’s biggest success in the tournament to date.

The eighties and nineties were the golden age of the Belgian national team. These decades proved to be a rewarding time for the side as they qualified for every World Cup tournament from 1982 to 2002. The 1986 World Cup, held in Mexico, saw Belgium perform at their best and secure their best finish in the competition, a more than respectable 4th place.

Under the guidance of Guy Thys, the most successful coach in Belgium’s history, the Red Devils competed in three World Cups and two European Championships. With players like Jan Ceulemans, Enzo Scifo and Jean-Marie Pfaff it is unsurprising that Belgium had a lot of success over this period of time.

Since 2000, when the European Championships returned to Belgium, the national side has failed to qualify for the previous three competitions and, since 2002, the Red Devils haven’t appeared in a World Cup.

The main problem that Belgium has is their form. They are unable to string a good set of results together and their inconsistency has hindered their success. The Red Devils tend to perform well against the big guns but when it comes to playing the minnows they struggle to obtain all three points.

In their 2010 World Cup qualifying group Belgium finished fourth out of six teams. They finished behind the likes of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey, taking just ten points from a possible thirty. Results in the last few years, such as draws with Montenegro, Azerbaijan, Finland and Greece contradict wins against the Netherlands and Russia, which proves the fact that Belgium underperform in the matches which they should perhaps be winning.

Will we see Belgium in the 2014 World Cup? This is a hard question to answer however the stark reality is that the answer to this question should be relatively simple. Belgium have a world-class squad at the minute with their team boasting nine Premier League players, as well as several from Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga. A defence consisting of Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen and Daniel Van Buyten creates the solid foundation of the strong team which also has the attacking prowess of Marouane Fellaini, Moussa Dembélé, Axel Witsel , Eden Hazard and Kevin Mirallas.

Although it’s early days, qualification for Brazil 2014 is on the cards for Belgium. They are currently occupying top spot in Group A, having taken ten points from a possible twelve in their opening four matches.

So in conclusion, it is difficult to say whether or not we will see Belgium in the next World Cup but if we don’t it will for sure be a loss for international football.

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Mivvie Garman

I write my own blog all about the English Premier League and my dream job in the future would be to talk about football all day, everyday...

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