Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home to 11,239,755 people, NATO and the capital of the EU, Brussels. Historically it is not known as well known for football like their neighbours the Netherlands.
However, it has had a bit of a resurgence in football of late, rivalling the successful national squad of the 80’s. Then they had players such as Pfaff in goal, Gerets in defence, Cools, Vandereycken and Scifo in midfield and the lively pairing of Van Der Elst and Jan Ceulemans up front they were runners up to West Germany in the 1980 Euros, losing to an 88th minute Hrubesh strike and came 3rd in the 1986 World Cup, knocked out by Maradona’s winning Argentina side.
Most of the names of the past may not have been as well known in Britain except by those hard core football fans like myself, but the modern day team is full of stars not only known in Britain but plying their trade here in the Premier League.
Manager Marc Wilmots has squad members playing at the highest club level. You may know a few of them from Match of the Day: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Toby Alderweireld & Jan Vertonghen (Spurs), Jason Denayer & Vincent Kompany (Man city), Sébastien Pocognoli (WBA), Nacer Chadli & Mousa Dembélé (Spurs), Marouane Fellaini & Adnan Januzaj (Man Utd), Christian Benteke & Divock Origi (Liverpool), Kevin Mirallas & Romelu Lukaku (Everton) and captain Eden Hazard (Chelsea).
In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Belgium beat all group opponents and were unlucky to eventually go out to losing finalists Argentina in the Quarter finals after an early Higuain goal in front of 68,000 fans in Brasilia. They pushed Messi and co’ all the way and were unlucky not to equalise late on.
They currently sit second in Group B, surprisingly to Wales, in the qualifiers for Euro 2016 in France with 11 points from 6 games and only one defeat which came away to Wales, where a Gareth Bale goal nicked an unlikely win. However, Wilmots team are certain to qualify.
The have a young side and some great players to watch out for. Hazard had a great year last season, winning the League Cup and Premier League with Chelsea, earning him the PFA Players' Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards. Kompany has been Man City’s rock in defence, guiding them to two premier League titles in recent years and Chelsea’s Courtois is one of the best young keepers in the world.I just hope England do not get drawn against them, they are looking good and might just be an outside bet that is too difficult to ignore. They definitely have the ability to beat anyone on their day. They are not ranked number 2 in FIFA rankings for nothing. Look out for the Red Devils next summer, they could be picking up the trophy in Paris.