Belgium are one of the pre-tournament favorites and certainly the most talked about team leading up to the Euro 2016. Red Devils topped their qualifying group with 7 wins, 2 draws and a defeat from the 10 matches.
Coming in to the competition, Belgium have been drawn in Group E alongside Italy, Republic of Ireland and Sweden. On the face of it, this is one of the groups of death where one poor result would lead to a big team crashing out of the tournament.
With only two weeks left in the tournament, we try and take a look at Belgium’s road-map in to the competition and who would make the difference for the much talked about team in red.
Belgium’s Euro 2016 Squad
Manager – Marc Wilmots
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Jean-Francois Gillet (Mechelen), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Jason Denayer (Galatasaray), Christian Kabasel (Racing Genk), Jordan Lukaku (Oostende), Thomas Meunier (Club Bruges), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
Midfielders: Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Radja Nainggolan (Roma), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham)
Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Marseille), Christian Benteke (Liverpool), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Divock Origi (Liverpool)
Despite all the pre-tournament buzz, Belgium have been hit with serious defensive injury scares. Vincent Kompany and Bjorn Engels were already ruled out of the tournament, however, in last 24 hours Nicolas Lombaerts and Dedryck Boyata have also been sidelined from Euro 2016.
Uncapped Christian Kabasel has been called upon to fill the void but it may not be enough. Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelen are also doubters after playing very little during the closing stages of last season.
Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City star was one of the best players in Premier League last season and he will be hoping kick on and have a great Euro 2016 campaign. De Bruyne’s ability to find balls to his attackers is second to none and he is never shy of scoring a goal or two himself either.
Romelu Lukaku – For me, he will be one of the star men from the tournament and Euro 2016 will be a turning point in his career. After scoring 18 league goals for Everton last season, Lukaku will be eager to cement his status as one of Europe’s finest strikers with a brilliant showing in France later this summer.
Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco – When on form, he is as good as a winger there is in Europe. He almost tore apart Real Madrid’s defense on his own in the recently concluded Champions League final. He even scored the goal, but it was not enough for Atletico Madrid.
Brushing aside his disappointments, Carrasco would be keen to prove his worth to all the rumoured suitors from Premier League and other European leagues. Carrasco could be used as an impact substitutes, but for me he is ready to start for Belgium and carry their attack.
Divock Origi – The 21-year old striker made a late dart in Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI and delivered some eye-catchy performances. His knee injury came at the wrong time but he will be fit in time for the Euros and will be a big player for his country. His instinctive finishing and hard work off the ball make him one of the players to watch out for in France this summer.
Marc Wilmots will go with a fluid 4-3-3 system with midfield and attack being the focal point. Despite their defensive concerns, Belgium will be able to field International stars who have been a regular for their country. However, any more injuries, then we are talking about very thin possibilities.
Midfield will be marshaled by hard tackling Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini and Radja Nainggolan. Good luck trying to get past them with ease and create chances. They would be looking to find De Bruyne and Hazard out wide who then will need to stretch opposing defenses and bring others in to play.
Fellaini and Lukaku with their height will be a danger from set pieces and crosses coming in from the wide areas. Belgium seem to have ticked all the right boxes in terms of tactics, now is the time to go and apply the same at Euro 2016.
Italy (June 14), Republic of Ireland (June 18), Sweden (June 23)
How far can they go?
This is one question, every football fan is trying to figure out. Belgium have suddenly come up with these insanely talented players who are trying to make their mark on the International scene.
Barring few defensive absentees, Belgium have the strongest squad on paper and they should be able to reach at least till the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Anything less than that will be a disappointment after Red Devils could not make a strong impact on FIFA World Cup 2014.
Image Credit: Getty, Lineupbuilder