Shouldn't Belgium be better than this?
By John Fernandez
With the wealth of talent in Belgian football at the moment, shouldn't Marc Wilmot's men should be dominating world football for the next 10 years?
They have arguably the best central defender in the world in the form of Vincent Kompany. Arsenal captain and defensive lynchpin Thomas Vermaelen and last years Eredivisie Player of the Year, Jan Vertonghen.
In midfield they have the undoubted talents of Chelsea's, Eden Hazard, Tottenham’s new recruit Moussa Dembélé, Merseyside and Everton colossus Marouane Fellaini, defensive anchor Steven Defour and the flamboyant Asel Witsel who recently moved east across Europe to Zenit St. Petersburg.
Leading the front line is the ‘next Didier Drogba’ Romelu Lukaku while Premier League new boys Kevin Mirallas and Christian Benteke complete a formidabe treble threat.
With this highly touted ‘Golden generation’ of young talent at his disposal, the question is why can’t Marc Wilmots forge them into a formidable unit?
Tactics with no coherent paln
It has become apparent that Belgium’s tactics are off the mark and that was made evident in their recent friendly fixture against England.
The Red Devil attack, which comprised of Mirallas, Dembélé, Hazard and Dries Mertens flirted around an England back-line however they lacked any real kind of punch, penetration and barely tested Joe Hart in the Three Lions goal.
It wasn’t until Lukaku took to the field and started dragging the English pairing of John Terry and Gary Cahill around that space opened up. His pace and power finally created Belgian movement in the final third. Lukaku’s classic number 9 play allowed Hazzard, who had previously been a passanger up until that point, the counterweight to find holes to exploit.
This in my mind is the attacking duo that the team should be built around. Lukaku with more matches under his belt at West Brom, will develop into a world-class forward. With him spearheading the Belgian attack, the space between midfield and defence will open up giving the Belgian midfielder’s time to work the intricacies so favored by the likes of Spain.
Square pegs in round holes
Another issue for Marc Wilmots’ Red Devils is surrounding their back-four. They have three of the world’s top central defenders and yet Wilmots sticks with a safe, yet unimaginative flat back-four. Utilising Vermaelen as a left-back and chopping and changing the right full-back as he sees fit.
This approach of square pegs in round holes leaves the Belgian side often rather lopsided with Vermaelen offering little in the form of an attacking threat meaning often the right-sided opposition players will double up on the lofty Arsenal captain.
Using a back-three has been mooted, with Vermaelen on the left side, Kompany in the centre and Vertonghen on the right.
This World Cup qualifying campaign will be the first real test of the ‘Golden Generation’ for Belgium and it is yet to be seen as to whether they will make any impact.
It looks like an enviable situation for any international boss, but with the talent available, comes pressure, so don’t be surprised if the Red Devils end up chopping and changing their manager before the prospect of Rio reers its head in 2014.