Belgium, much like France, is blessed with some of, if not the best young talent in the world. Appearing on the scene early, they have amassed a level experience for their age that most envy, but somehow, it’s never clicked. If they want that to change, they will look to these three for help.
The best performing defender in Premier League this past season Toby Alderweireld is Calm, skilled and strong, Alderweireld did not get booked all season, a clear showing of a level of poise well accustomed to coping with the pressures of International Football. Capable of playing across the back four if the need arose, Alderweireld can play on strong target men, as well as pacey wingers and diminutive strikers.
Capable in both the air and with the ball at his feet, there is seldom a situation in which he is fazed. Constantly given the task to mask some of the best strikers in the world, Alderweireld made his name by marking the likes of Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo during his time in Spain with Atletico Madrid.
If he performs to the best of his abilities, Belgium will have a strong defensive line from which they can build.Kevin De Bruyne, a part of the great young hopes that Belgium have built on in the past few years, De Bruyne stared for Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga and recently took his talents to Manchester City, and has repeated the dose. Aside from a ten weeks stint on the sidelines with a knee injury he hasn’t showed any signs of being hindered by the problem.
Another in the long line world footballers who are as fast as they are skilled, De Bruyne can play along the front third and, in all positions, pose a very big threat. He can turn on a dime and his ability to pass like a strong holding midfielder means he can release other players into dangerous channels in between lines and behind other defenders.
Belgium will certainly look to him to player above his means in lieu of Eden Hazard performing, who’s lacklustre performances for Chelsea this season have left many wondering.
Finally, Romelu Lukaku, a hyped youngster who petered out at Chelsea, only to be re-born with Everton, he has fallen flat of expectation this season. As the figurehead of the struggles that Everton have experienced as a whole, was unable to recover the form he had last year which had Everton on the cusp of European football.
Whilst, coming off a poor season, he is a bright enough talent that, it can take only one came for him to turn things around. A very similar player to Harry Kane, perhaps not as quick, but just as, if not stronger, Lukaku’s ability to play as a target man and bring the likes of De Bruyne, Hazard and Dries De Mertines into the game will be invaluable.
He may not impact the scoresheet like a striker could, but his will and desire will see him do everything this in power to make sure those around him are put in the best positions possible.
Belgium has often been viewed as an odd case. Blessed with talent who play at the big clubs and perform in the big games, but for some reason, it can never translate on the international stage. If Toby Alderweireld can carry his form over and if De Bruyne stays fit, this could be their best chance to show the world that they aren’t ones to choke on the big stage.