If we are to look at the facts, Belgium should win the European Championships in France this summer. Why you ask?
- Belgium is ranked as the No.2 team in the World according to the FIFA rankings, having been knocked from the No.1 spot by Argentina.
- Belgium has the costliest squad at the tournament – with a combined transfer value of $319 million (Germany has the second highest at $264 million.
With this being said, Belgium has never gained huge success at a major tournament – but is that about to change?
Michael Sablon (the previous National Team Coach) became the Belgium Federation’s Technical Director in 2001 and quickly identified that despite having a playing philosophy, there was a severe lack of structure for player development from the grassroot to the national team pathway. He quickly went about examining the Netherlands and France along with the club teams of Barcelona and Ajax to learn from their methods. The National Football Center was created and there was a large increase in coaches taking courses. Extensive studies of youth games were conducted by a University and rankings at the youngest ages were removed. Slow shifts were made with the focus on technical development. Over time – the nation started to gain the fruits of their labor and start to develop the stars of the future.
The list is endless but if we look at just 5 of their squad you can see the quality;
Courtois – One of the best Goalkeepers in the world.
Hazard – Chelsea Forward that despite a poor season for Chelsea, has the ability to create something out of nothing.
De Bruyne – Manchester City Attacking Midfielder with phenomenal work rate and extremely creative on the ball.
Lukaku – Everton Striker – quick, strong and deadly finisher.
Benteke – Liverpool Striker – a natural goal scorer.
Marc Wilmots leads the team as the Coach but is not short of critics, his lack of experience as a coach is no denying. When you consider that many of the players, play under some of the best coaches in the world and then come to the national team and the training has less structure. Will he be able to get this team playing to their potential.
Vincent Kompany (National Team Captain) who is missing the tournament through injury recently revealed how fractured the squad is with separate groups of players forming within the squad. This is further compelled by the fact that some of the players speak one language and some another.
They certainly have the players and when it does all gel together though, they are a delight to watch! Let’s see how far they go in the European Championship!