Best ever World Cup finish: 4th (1986)
First choice line-up:
Courtois, Alderweireld, Kompany, Vermaelen, Vertonghen, Witsel, Dembele, Mirallas, Fellaini, Hazard, Lukaku
How did they qualify?
The Belgians were supremely impressive in qualifying, scoring 18 and conceding only four goals during the course of their ten matches. They surged clear in Group A after Scotland secured a shock win over Croatia in June, and finished their campaign clinically and relentlessly. Their goals were shared out across their squad, Kevin De Bruyne finishing top scorer with four. They have, however, failed to register a win in their last three friendly games.
Manchester City’s captain has already picked up a massive 20 7+ ratings this season, two Star Man awards and 117 points in the space of 28 games, making him one of the finest defenders in this season’s game. He also wears the armband for his national side, demonstrating his typically inspirational leadership skills during a game against Serbia in qualifying when he played for 60 minutes with a broken nose, mild concussion and a fractured eye socket.
A leading light in this year’s Dream Team game, Hazard has relished the responsibility handed to him by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea this season. The Belgian winger offers impeccable control and dribbling skills, devastating pace and an impressive yet underrated work rate. Dream Team’s stats have him as the third best player in the league this year, with him scoring 240 points, notching up 15 goals and achieving a 7+ rating a massive 23 times already. He has developed into one of the world’s finest talents – much of Belgium’s hopes this summer will depend on how brightly Hazard can shine on a world stage.
Dream Team pedigree:
Very strong indeed. Aside from Kompany and Hazard, there are eight other Belgians with a Suitcase Rating of at least 4/5 in the Dream Team game this season.
Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet is likely to start as second choice to Atlético Madrid loanee Thibaut Courtois this summer, but has still picked up a respectable 57 points and nine 7+ ratings since August. Tottenham seem to be wisely attempting to hoard all the hot Belgian talent, already featuring Jan Vertonghen (101 points and 11 7+ ratings), Mousa Dembélé (87 points and 15 7+ ratings) and Nacer Chadli (78 points and nine 7+ ratings) in their team.
Belgium can also call on Marouane Fellaini, who despite only having picked up 41 points this season for his new club Manchester United, has consistently performed well for the national side. Kevin Mirallas, meanwhile, has been a revelation for Everton, notching six goals and two Star Man awards on his way to 101 points so far this season.
Belgium’s leading strikers will also be familiar to Dream Team managers – Christian Benteke may not have experienced the same success in the Premier League as he did last season, but the Aston Villa striker has still picked up 87 points and remains a potent threat in front of goal, having scored 11 so far in 2013/14. He may well find his space as the lone striker for Belgium taken by Romelu Lukaku,who has picked up 122 points and 16 7+ ratings whilst on loan at Everton from Chelsea this season.
Dream Team prediction:
In the past year Belgium have gone from dark horses to genuine contenders for this year’s World Cup. This squad lacks major tournament experience though – they may find securing a place in the final a step too far this summer in Brazil.
(All Dream Team statistics correct as of 26.3.14)