Euro 2016 Scouting Report: What you need to know about Belgium
For many years it was Spain who failed to build on a promised golden generation, and now it’s Belgium who must come good using an indisputably talented squad of players.
Not only that, but FIFA officially says they’re the best team in the world.
Belgium have failed to qualify for the preceding three European tournaments, but did impress with a quarter-final run at 2014 World Cup, pushing Argentina all the way in the last eight.
Placed in a daunting Group E alongside Italy, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland, Marc Wilmots’ side will need to be on it right from the off.
So ahead of this lowland nation’s best chance of a major tournament victory in a generation, here’s who their main men might be…
Danger Man – Kevin de Bruyne
With Eden Hazard barely even a shadow of his former self this season, and Romelu Lukaku set to be one of the most heavily marked men in the tournament, Man City’s Kevin de Bruyne is the man to profit.
With 13 goals for the Citizens this term, the 24-year-old has also netted four in five for his country, and has proven more than capable of playing in any position behind the front man, something Belgium utilised excellently in qualifying.
Under the Radar – Radja Nainggolan
With Marouane Fellaini seemingly heading for a dismissal every time he takes to the pitch, Roma’s Radja Nainggolan is the man to really keep Belgium ticking over.
Despite making his debut way back in 2009, it’s only in the last two years that the 27-year-old has become crucial to the Belgium cause, starting all of his nation’s last seven qualifiers.
With Fellaini stealing all the headlines, it’s the Serie A star who opponents will need to control if they’re to stop the Red Devils.
The Lynch Pin – Vincent Kompany
A rare leader in the old school spirit in this modern world, Belgium will absolutely need Vincent Kompany if they’re to make that leap into becoming major tournament winners.
Despite his injuries, Kompany is set to be fully fit for the summer, and the Man City defender’s leadership will be invaluable in France, especially in the group stages where potential pitfalls await at every turn.
Enjoying a golden generation, Belgium are officially number one in the world, but as England and Spain spent decades failing to make the most of their quality, can they build on their promise and become champions?
Belgium are evens to win a fierce group comprising Italy, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland, with odds of 1/9 to qualify for the knockout stage suggesting the talent in the squad is too good to be going home so early.
Outright odds of 10/1 will tempt many, as they look to replicate Spain’s 2008 success and come good on all that potential.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.