Friday, May 30, 2014

Belgium - Dark Horses of FIFA WC 2014

As we inch closer towards the kick-off of the FIFA 2014 WC in Brazil, all football pundits and fans have begun assessing teams’ strengths and weaknesses. In this piece we will take a look at a team which seems to have an outside chance of laying their hands on the coveted trophy. Belgium are the proverbial dark-horses going into this tournament.

Normally, Belgium is associated with mouth-watering chocolates and jaw dropping diamonds. But this time their squad looks strong enough to go the distance in the month-long tournament.

Squad –

v Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, on loan from Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Koen Casteels (Hoffenheim), Silvio Proto (Anderlecht).

v Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St Petersburg), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).

v Midfielders: Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele (both Tottenham), Steven Defour (Porto), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj (both Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Divock Origi (Lille), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg).

v Forwards: Romelu Lukaku (Everton, on loan from Chelsea), Dries Mertens (Napoli).

Most of the squad’s players are plying their trade in the top football leagues in Europe. Some of them have been brilliant for their respective club teams this season – notably, Vincent Kompany, Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard, Adnan Januzaj, Kevin Mirallas, and Romelu Lukaku.

Moreover, they seem to have a favorable draw being grouped alongside Algeria, Russia and Korea Republic. Betting site Paddy Power has given them 20/1 odds of winning the WC. Interestingly, traditional footballing powerhouses England, Italy and France have higher odds than Belgium!

The main challenge for Belgium would be to ensure that the squad is able to adapt quickly to themselves. Performing brilliantly for a club team is a bit easier as the whole team plays and knows each other for 6-8 months. But while on national duty the time to understand and get along is comparatively less.

Anyone who has been following football will agree that this squad has some serious talent and provided they click well, they can be a handful opposition for any team. Belgium’s best performance in the World Cup was a 4th place finish in 1986 Mexico WC. Let us see if they can better or even match it with some attacking football!