For Belgium, the stats are staggering. They hardly broke any sweat as they qualified for the Euro 2020 in style. Having won 10 out of 10 games, scoring 40 goals and conceding just three, Belgium have their eyes set on the elusive trophy. And this time around, Roberto Martinez and his side have the greatest of opportunities to win a major trophy for the first time in their history. They head into the tournament as one of the favourites.
Belgium’s European Championship history
Out of the 16 European Championships, this is only the sixth time that Belgium have qualified. Out of the six times, two of them were by virtue of hosting the tournament.
Despite finishing third in 1972, Belgium lost the 1980 final 2-1 against West Germany. After this their best performance at the Euro was a quarter-final finish in 2016 where they exited the tournament following a 1-3 loss to Wales.
All about Roberto Martinez
Before his stint with the Belgium national side, he was the mastermind of Wigan’s great escape in 2012 before he won the FA Cup the next season. He went on to get Everton their highest Premier League points in 2014.
Now, with this done, he became the head coach of Belgium after Euro 2016. Under his guidance, the Red Devils finished third in the FIFA World Cup, Russia. Not only this, they sit atop the FIFA world rankings.
It won’t be a surprise if he goes on to use the 3-4-3 formation that has been paying him dividends in abundance. However, two things are fitting well for the Spaniard in his plans for glory – Kevin de Bruyne’s eye socket injury and Eden Hazard’s injury and poor form.
Belgium’s golden generation
Okay, there is no plethora of talents this side doesn’t have. Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne, Toby Alderweireld, Leander Dendoncker, Timothy Castagne, Youri Tielemans, Dennis Praet, Christian Benteke, Michy Batshuayi and Leandro Trossard.
The Red Devils have been called the dark horses for long. And if Lukaku, Hazard and De Bruyne hit their mark, they might as well win the tournament.
However, Martinez will have to make a decision in the central midfield. Axel Witsel is in recovery with a torn Achilles tendon. His presence will do wonders to the aging defence – Toby Alderweireld (32), Jan Vertonghen (34) and Thomas Vermaelen (35).
If Witsel fails to recover in time, Dendoncker or Tielemans will have to replace him in the line-up. While Dendoncker’s passing game is less effective than Witsel’s, but he has a couple of skills that he can portray and help his team.
As far as players are concerned, Lukaku has, time and again, proven that he can win games on his own. In the Serie A season, his 35 goal-involvement was the most of any player. 24 goals and 11 assists.
Apart from him, 24-year-old Tielemans can have a breakthrough Euro 2020 season and finally cement his place as a sought-after player.
With all said and done, Belgium is in a relatively easier group, place alongside Denmark, Russia and Finland and is expected to progress without much trouble. Since this could be their last chance to earn a major tournament with a team and form that they have, Martinez would be really hoping that his players up the ante and do not remove their foot off the gas.
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet, Matz Sels.
Defenders: Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen, Thomas Meunier, Jason Denayer, Dedryck Boyata, Leander Dendoncker, Timothy Castagne.
Midfielders: Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Nacer Chadli, Yannick Carrasco, Youri Tielemans, Thorgan Hazard, Dennis Praet, Hans Vanaken.
Forwards: Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke, Michy Batshuayi, Jeremy Doku, Leandro Trossard.
Possible line-up: Courtois, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Vermaelen, Meunier, Dendoncker, de Bruyne, T Hazard, Mertens, E Hazard, R Lukaku.
Key players: R Lukalu, K de Bruyne, E Hazard
Belgium vs Russia: June 12 (12:30 AM IST)
Belgium vs Denmark: June 17 (9:30 PM IST)
Belgium vs Finland: June 21 (12:30 AM IST)