Belgian Bliss: A new generation of superstars

by Cian O'Neill

Belgium 2013Marouane Fellaini, Dries Mertens, Kevin Mirallas, Thomas Vermaelen, Eden Hazard, Moussa Dembele, Thibaut Courtois, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Jan Vertonghen, Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku. All led on the pitch for their national side by Manchester City icon and tough-tackling defender Vincent Kompany, these players are part of a revitalisation in Belgian football, and they could soon merge together to become one of the world’s most feared national sides. Their attacking prowess is almost up there with the likes of world-beaters Spain.  The Europeans boast some of the world’s most raved about men going forward such as afro-headed Fellaini, Chelsea magician Hazard and also Didier Drogba’s apparent successor Lukaku.

After taking an apparent hiatus and not managing to produce a flurry of immense talent for numerous years, Belgium seem to have sorted out their youth set-up, bringing through more than a starting XI worth of potential world class players.

In Eden Hazard, the Pensioners, and Belgium, seem to have unearthed a true gem of a player. By the age of 21 the twinkle-toed winger had already conquered France’s top tier with LOSC Lille, winning player of the season twice in a row, and he felt it was the right time to jump ship and make the leap on over to London, and in a rather arrogant fashion at that. We all know social media has played a huge part in the lives of many a footballer, although it comes to a point where you simply cannot announce your impending transfer over Twitter.

Hazard tweets

The diminutive attacker is adept at playing in behind the striker, or more appropriately as an introverted winger, cutting in from the left so he can use the inside of his right boot so as to bend his shots in a way that the keeper finds it more troublesome to deal with. In his first 4 Premier League starts for Chelsea, he was awarded Man Of The Match every single time. The first player ever to do so. With 7 goals and 6 assists in the domestic campaign this season, he has been a driving force of Chelsea’s almost-bipolar side. He has most certainly lived up to his £32 million hype, and he will undeniably be an integral part of Belgium’s highly promising squad for years to come.

One of the Red Devils’ more unknown players is PSV Eindhoven’s Dries Mertens. Described by many as a very similar player to his national compatriot Eden Hazard, Mertens is the perfect modern winger. Small, pace to burn and often audacious skills thrown into the mix, Dries Mertens is a manager’s dream – and a defender’s nightmare. Racking up 9 goals and 10 assists thus far for club and country this season, fans from all over Europe are desperate for the Belgian’s name for him to join their team sheet, and he is indeed very hot property.

Fellaini WarriorNow 25, Mertens is entering the peak of his career. If he wants to make it on the big stage he has to look for a move to one of Europe’s more elite leagues. Liverpool have been linked with him numerous times over the last couple of months, although no deal has ever come into fruition. It is widely agreed that the winger would fit the Premier League in a similar manner to Eden Hazard, both similar players, same build, nation and playing style. Now all he needs is to get his name out there more, and this can only be achieved by making the transition to one of Europe’s big leagues.

Marouane Fellaini has taken the English top flight by storm this season, asserting his authority and utter dominance in his first game this season, single-handedly bringing Everton to a monumental 1-0 win over now-league leaders Manchester United. The big Belgian is yet to hit top-form for his national side, but when he does, he will be a nuisance on the international scene. The 25-year old has been the revelation in Everton’s scintillating season so far, bagging 8 goals in 18 league appearances in the current campaign. He is a hugely versatile player, apt at playing as a defensive midfield, a more central box-to-box midfielder, and attacking midfielder or even as a second striker.

His work ethic is admirable and his chest control is jaw-droppingly good, something seldom noticed as a player’s best skill. The attacker’s 6′ 5″ frame makes him a defenders worst tormentor, and his heading ability is on par with anyone else’s in the league. If Fellaini can drag Everton up to a top 4 spot, and sit prettily there come the end of the campaign, the Toffees may well be able to bring in some more world-class talent to match this genius’ ability. Although that is exceedingly unlikely, given the competition Everton have to fend off to claim such a coveted spot.

Kompany BelgiumDefensive stalwart and Premier League champion Vincent Kompany is one of the world’s most menacing and imposing figures at centre-back. Big in stature, relatively pacy, extremely robust in the tackle (can result in reds) and a perpetual will to spur on his team even in the worst of times. With 2 years of Champions League experience under his belt now, although they were in no way a fructiferous 2 years, he will know what it takes to lead a team to the top, exactly what he’s done with Roberto Mancini’s City side domestically. Kompany has been suspect of some irrational decisions and generally poor defending for a player of his calibre many a time this season. But you have to keep in mind that without this player, City wouldn’t have won the Premier League.

There are not many people in football blessed with the leadership qualities that Kompany possesses, and he used them to great effect last season to help the blue side of Manchester claim one of the Premier League’s biggest ever victories against their noisy neighbours. The brick wall that is Kompany led like a leader only can, and scored the only goal in a 1-0 match which helped City close that 8 point gap which they somehow managed to overcome thanks to a magical moment from Sergio Aguero, a moment which gives fans world-wide goosebumps, and it will certainly live long in the memory of both sets of Manchester fans, for better or for worse.

Summed up, Belgium are one of the world’s most dangerous emerging sides. With an almost guaranteed spot in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, it would be hard not to see the side go far in the tournament. As long as the draw for the group stages is kind to them, they could have an immensely successful tenure in Brazil for the best part of a month. And with the emergence of highly-rated youngsters such as Villa’s Christian Benteke and Chelsea’s on-loan man mammoth of a striker Romelu Lukaku, the future is very bright for the Belgians.

2 Responses

  1. Irish Paul says:

    The fact that you are an avid Liverpool fan probably explains the statement that it is exceedingly unlikely that Everton can gain a top 4 spot. You should note that they have been beaten three times in 32 Premier League matches. This is consistent top 4 form. They have a better chance of doing it than the “much-hyped” Liverpool FC.

  2. DM says:

    That’s not even the best of it. At U18 level they have Januzaj, Pereira, Musonda, Henen. These kids are even more promising than those names above and on par with Hazard in terms of potential.

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