Do Belgium Have a ‘Golden Generation’?

Belgium starting eleven that defeated Wales 2-0 is worth £181 million...

Jamie Callaghan

Contributor

According to the website transfermarkt.co.uk, the Belgium starting eleven that defeated Wales 2-0 is worth £181 million. It’s a statistic that raises more questions than answers, but chiefly, if they have so much talent why are they only 40th in the FIFA Rankings and how did they fail to make it to Euro 2012?

Group A was one of the strongest. While Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan posed little threat Austria are always dangerous. As for the two teams who finished above them; Turkey have an experienced squad and few teams can match the quality of Germany.

People are already starting to doubt whether these wonderfully talented individuals can form a strong team. Everyone recognises the extraordinary talents playing for the Red Devils yet for some reason they can’t work together. With an average age of 24 the team who defeated Wales have years to gel and that was an eleven excluding 19-year-old Romelu Lukaku and 23-year-old defender Toby Alderweireld.

It is a team packed to the rafters with creative brilliance, attacking prowess and defensive prudence.

Eden Hazard tears down one wing while Dries Mertens, who notched 21 Eredivisie goals for PSV last season, bombs down the other. West Brom loanee Lukaku has the potential to be a top European striker as he already displays the same characteristics that made Didier Drogba such a potent threat.

In defence they have three of the shrewdest Premier League centre backs: Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany, Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen and Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen.

Perhaps the most promising central midfield in Europe, Belgium can boast at least three top quality players. Moussa Dembele arrived at White Hart Lane following an impressive spell at Fulham, Axel Witsel joined Zenit for around £30 million and Marouane Fellaini is rumoured to be fancied by all the major European teams. On top of that, the inventive Nacer Chadi and promising Radja Nainggolan have both earned call ups recently.

They could be the Golden Generation of Belgian football after so many years in the football-wilderness. So why don’t they work?

It could be argued that Kompany is one of the most influential and commanding captains in the Premier League. He leads by example and absolutely solid in defence, which makes it difficult to lay any blame on him.

Perhaps the naivety of the young squad needs to be quashed. While Belgium did defeat Wales by two goals they created many more chances and perhaps they either lack the devastating finisher or they are happy to be in-front.

The former manager George Leekens had a very mixed record in management. Between starting his coaching career in 1984 and taking the Belgium job in 2010 he’d managed at 18 clubs. He left the national side to take the reins at Club Brugge.

His successor Marc Wilmots had been Leeken’s assistant. His only time in management previously was a very disappointing spell at Sint-Truiden from which he was sacked midway into his first season. Some critics have noted that the inexperienced Wilmots may not be the right choice to groom some of these younger talents.

Perhaps the Belgian FA need to think about employing a foreigner the next time the position becomes available. A manager in the style of Jurgen Klopp would benefit the younger stars.

The experience of playing in major leagues will benefit the team overall. Seven of the starting eleven that played at the Cardiff City Stadium either play or are on-loan from a top ten Premier League club.

While the midfielder has much creative talent they lack an anchor for the team. A talented team with the attacking prowess that they have need a Scott Parker or a Sami Khedira to act as a box-to-box midfielder to provide extra defensive support.

Maybe they do require a manager with an excellent record of developing youngsters, a midfield general or more experience; the main point is that they need it quick or they risk letting a Golden Generation slip through their fingers as England have for the last ten years.