The main thing to say about Belgium is that they’re very, very good. These days they head into tournaments as one of the favourites to come out beaming with joy at the end of it.
The case is no different for this summer’s delayed Euro 2020 tournament and, being ranked first in the world, the country of Belgium will hope – or expect – to find glory come 11 July.
Can Roberto Martinez’s side win their first ever major tournament this summer? Well, let’s take a look and preview what could be a historic month.
Route to Euro 2020
Perfect doesn’t really exist in the world of football but Belgium came mightily close during the qualification campaign for Euro 2020.
Ten wins in ten games saw them claim the best attack throughout (40 goals) and also the best defence along with Turkey, conceding just three. They notched four goals in three of their matches, beat Cyprus 6-1 on matchday ten and registered the pick of the bunch – a 9-0 thrashing of San Marino – on matchday seven.
Their form since hasn’t been too shabby, either. England are the only team to have found the better of Martinez’s men recently (in the Nations League), although the favour was returned as Belgium topped Group 2 with five wins from six to seal a place in the final four.
Their World Cup qualification process has gotten off to a solid start too, with a draw and two wins – including an 8-0 trouncing of Belarus – signalling a more-than-probable appearance in Qatar next year.
Can you call a whole starting XI a strength? If so, Belgium are bloody strong.
The experience of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, complemented by the solidity and pace of Jason Denayer, will sit in front of one of Thibaut Courtois, Europe’s best goalkeepers, to make up one of the tournament’s strongest back lines.
Meanwhile in midfield, options like Axel Witsel, Youri Tielemans and Kevin De Bruyne provide a dynamic, cutting and genius heart of the side.
The creativity of Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens is made all the more dangerous thanks to one of Europe’s most potent goal threats in the form of Romelu Lukaku. Already on 60 goals in 93 caps and off the back of a 30-goal season for Serie A-winning Inter, he’s terrifying to any opposition.
Well, this is kind of difficult – there aren’t many.
One thing that becomes clear when scanning their final squad is that there isn’t that much depth for Martinez to call upon.
In central defence, midfield and up front, there aren’t any world class or proven top-quality alternatives to the players that will be starting during the European Championship this summer. In today’s special circumstances, squad depth at a major tournament could prove crucial more than ever and, while Belgium’s starting Xi is one of the strongest in the tournament, a lack of depth may be a hindrance in the latter stages.
Player to watch
There’s only one Belgian player to keep an intense eye on during Euro 2020, and that is Jeremy Doku, who was included in 90min‘s very own ‘Our 21’ series – so you know he’s pretty decent.
The 19-year-old winger had a good season settling into life at Rennes during the 2020/21 campaign and, with two goals in eight caps already, he’s an exciting prospect to say the least. The European Championship has been a platform for many youngsters to break out before, and Doku could find himself at the centre of attention in just over a month’s time.
Final Euro 2020 squad
The 26-man squad Martinez has chosen to take to the Euros:
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Matz Sels (Strasbourg)
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Hertha Berlin), Jason Denayer (Lyon), Thomas Vermaelen (Vissel Kobe), Jan Vertonghen (Benfica), Timothy Castagne (Leicester), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund)
Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne (Man City), Leander Dendoncker (Wolves), Dennis Praet (Leicester), Youri Tielemans (Leicester), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Nacer Chadli (Istanbul Basaksehir), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund)
Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Crystal Palace), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Romelu Lukaku (Inter), Jeremy Doku (Rennes), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Leandro Trossard (Brighton)
The ‘Golden Generation’ haven’t yet managed to make their potential count yet but, with the sheer talent they possess, they’ll once again be one of the favourites to go on and lift the trophy at Euro 2020.
They have one of the strongest lineups in the tournament and in a group alongside Denmark, Russia and Finland, reaching the knockout stage should be a formality. However, the lack of depth in certain areas may make things difficult as the competition progresses and, when Martinez’s side come up against the bigger names, will he have enough in the squad?