Why Belgium are this years World Cup's dark horses
As the world gears up for footballs greatest tournament, many are selecting who they believe will lift the famous golden trophy.
The popular favourites are between the trio of current holders Spain, hosts Brazil and 2002 runners-up Germany. The Spanish currently hold all the major titles both internationally and in European club competitions.
So it probably wouldn't surprise anyone if Spain won it again, what with their current global dominance. Brazil, known for their passionate love of the beautiful game, are hosting their first World Cup since 1950 and are looking to win the tournament for the first time in twelve years.
Other main contenders are thought to be 2006 winners Italy, followed by Holland, France and Champions League winner Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal.
But putting aside the favourites, one country stands out as the possible winners, Belgium. A host of Premier League talent, including other major European leagues, the Belgians possess a team that has risen into the limelight in strikingly quick fashion.
They include world-class players such as Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, and Thibaut Courtois. You then also have young starlets such as Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Adnan Januzaj. Dries Mertens, Marouane Fellaini and Jan Vertonghen also make up what is a very impressive squad.
This team is not to be looked down upon. The football world was sent into a state of shock when Greece won the European Championship in 2004, and there is no reason why the same cannot happen this time around.
Belgium will feel the loss of powerful striker Christian Benteke. The Aston Villa star has been ruled out of the tournament with an Achilles injury, so the dream power partnership of him and Lukaku will be sorely missed.
Belgium's group isn't that hard to progress from either, with their only real threat being Russia. This could see them steamroll group H and into the knockout stages.
Manager Marc Wilmots is also respected in his own right. He has managed the different styles in his team to great effect, nurturing the young talent with the more experienced pros within their ranks.
He did however have to deal with unsettling comments made by Everton's Kevin Mirallas who voiced the opinion that Januzaj should not make the final team as his talent was yet to be truly seen and that he did not know his fellow country all that well and someone of more experience should go in his place. Wilmots quickly put Mirallas in his place by stating that his opinion should be kept to himself, and so far no unrest seems to have come out from this exchange.
The bond within the teams seems to be growing despite this apparent rift as Hazard posted a squad "selfie" with Januzaj dead centre, although Mirallas seemingly was not included. Maybe the problem is you, eh, Kevin?
The World Cup is sure to supply its fair share of shocks and jaw-dropping moments, so don't be too surprised if the country that gave the world Stella Artois and a delicious take on chocolate, clinch their first ever World Cup title.
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