I believe I speak for all of us football-loving folk when I say we fell into a collective pit of boredom after the World Cup ended. It was an incredible iteration this time around, with many surprises, a ton of goals and several felled records. The thing is, because of the quality of the World Cup, the tension and the excitement we felt during those few weeks, having to wait for the season to begin is that much harder to handle.
But while the players from England, Spain, Germany, and all the other major competitions are still touring and preparing for the start a few weeks down the road, Belgium can rejoice, for our competition has already commenced. Agreed, Cercle Bruges versus Ghent doesn’t exactly have the same ring as Liverpool – Southampton, but when the ball starts rolling, names and reputations cease to matter.
In the coming months, I will be sharing the best Belgium has to offer, be it a fantastic game, a beautiful goal, a strange event, or just letting you get to know the clubs and the players that roam this flat little country. Today, we begin at – where else – the beginning: the first game of season 2014-15, Standard Liège against Charleroi, the battle of Walloon neighbours.
Every first game of the season carries an odd vibe: no-one seems to know how their club will fare, whether new transfers will work out, or whether the players will feel like working for a victory to set them on their way to a possible championship. More often than not over here, that opening match is a study round, a final – and late – practice bout before the real deal begins. This year however, we were treated to something in the likes of a gala match.
Standard showed up fresh and vibrant, with many youngsters getting a chance to prove themselves. Many feared that, with the likes of Kanu, Vainqueur, and of course Batshuayi leaving, Standard would be a mere shadow of its former self. Some spoke of struggling to reach Europe next season, some even dared say they would miss out on the Play-Offs (the confusing, and frankly redundant, system we use to determine who gets to play European football that I will explain very soon). But fickle as we supporters are at times, the stadium was treated to a 3-0 victory for the home side.
The first half, Charleroi was nowhere to be found, chasing the ball like an exceptionally small puppy would a basketball, and Standard controlled the game. More so, they finished it in the first twenty minutes. Mujangi Bia, an often overlooked player in the Pro League, scored two goals in an amazing game for him. Two big chances later, the half-time whistle went.
The second half was more of the same, with Standard pushing forward fervently, flooding Charleroi’s defence, dealing the killing blow at the hour mark, courtesy of Moroccan winger Carcela. 3-0 wasn’t enough they thought, and still drove on, until deciding to control rather than humiliate.
Just as last year, the vice-champions won an impressive victory over their rather uninspired neighbours. Will they repeat their winning streak of the first seven games this time round, or will the drain of quality turn out to be too heavy a burden still? Only time will tell, but the way they played this evening, they look certified fresh indeed.