Why Belgium’s ‘Golden generation’ is the dark horse of FIFA World Cup 2018 and why it can lift the trophy

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New Delhi | Updated: July 4, 2018 8:08:28 PM

From being the "the team to watch" to becoming "the team to beat", Belgium have come a long way. In their latest exploits of Russia 2018, Belgium beat Japan 3-2 in pre-quarterfinals at the Rostov arena.

belgium vs brazil, belgium vs brazil prediction, belgium vs brazil world cup 2018, belgium football team 2018, fifa world cup 2018, belgium dark horse, belgium dark horse world cupFrom being the “the team to watch” to becoming “the team to beat”, Belgium have come a long way.(REUTERS)

From being the “the team to watch” to becoming “the team to beat”, Belgium have come a long way. Their victory over Japan shows is the perfect example of what football means – teamwork, composure and anything can happen at any second of time. In their latest exploits of Russia 2018, Belgium beat Japan 3-2 in pre-quarterfinals at the Rostov arena. Their team certainly consists of some world class players but also have some unknown name who have played a crucial role in their campaign.

Apart from Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku not a lot of players are famous worldwide but yet have performed better than the like of players of Germany, and Spain. Belgium are the perfect example of a dark horse who have emerged as the favourites to get hands on the holy grail. Their best performance in a World Cup was in 1986 when they finished fourth in Mexico.

The ‘Red Devils’ golden generation first came to light in 2014 Rio World Cup when they reached the quarters and faced Argentina. They lost to the two-times champions 1-0.

Japan was the only Asian team to qualify for pre-quarterfinals and were well on their way to the quarterfinals after securing a 2-0 lead. The scoreboard read 0-0 at half-time but a 48th-minute goal by Japan’s Genki Haraguchi had put the Blue Samurais ahead. But it was Takashi Inui’s thunderous strike that had set the stage for Belgium’s exit.

Tthe Red Devils then rose from the ashes, and Jan Vertonghen’s 62nd-minute header followed by the equalizer by Fellaini in the 74th minute. However, it was the injury-time goal from a counter-attack which was started by Thibaut Curtious to De Bruyne to Lukaku who performed a fake shot and the move was ended by Nacer Chadli. It was the nail to the coffin.

Coach Akira Nishino stood stunned on the sidelines, unable to comprehend what happened in those last seconds of the match. It felt as if he was struck by a ‘confundos’ charm which was later broken by Roberto Martinez. It was ‘avada kedavra’ for the Blue Samurais – Game Over!

In Russia, Belgium entered the competition with one of the youngest squads, but also with a fair bit of experience on their side: Thibaut Courtois (59 caps), Toby Alderweireld (78 caps), Jan Vertonghen (103 caps), De Bruyne (63 caps), and Hazard (87 caps). Dries Mertens, Lukaku and Hazard scored a combined 55 league goals at club level in the last season.

De Bruyne, eight goals and 16 assists in the Premier League adds value to Belgium’s golden generation. It is not a surprise that the team have scored 43 goals in the world cup qualification. The “Red Devils” became the first team to come from two-plus goals down to win a World Cup knockout game within 90 minutes since Portugal beat DPR Korea in 1966 quarterfinals.

Now they face the real challenge of their 2018 WC campaign as they face five-times champions Brazil in the quarters. However, only a victory would secure a lasting legacy for their so-called ‘Golden generation’. But in order to attain that ultimate status, they need to get their defence-line straight something Brazil have perfected in this tournament.

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