The “golden generation” of Belgium gets what appears to be its last chance to put on a World Cup show as Roberto Martinez leads the Red Devils into the 2022 tournament in Qatar.
Kevin de Bruyne and his international cohorts lived up to high expectations as young stars and led Belgium into a new age of the international game. They reached the quarter-finals at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, losing 1–0 to Argentina, and finished third at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, by far the nation’s best World Cup finish.
Now ranked second in the world, Belgium are still often underrated among many other established World Cup powers such as Brazil, France, Spain and Germany.
This team is deep and dangerous on offense, but has a number of weaknesses that teams could exploit. Still, Martinez is a top-notch coach who knows how to get the most out of his players by putting them in the best position to succeed.
Final 26-man Belgium World Cup roster
Most players who will play for Belgium at the World Cup were already assured of their place in the squad, barring only an injury before the tournament begins.
There were a few choices for Martinez to make between young up-and-coming players, but for the most part his group is set with top talent from across the Big 5 European leagues.
There were a few injuries to track. Most notably, star striker Romelu Lukaku, who only just worked his way back to full fitness with Inter Milan, recently again fell victim to a muscle injury, but he’s made the cut.
Additionally, full-back Thomas Meunier suffered a broken cheekbone on October 16 on club duty but is also heading to Qatar.
Here’s a look at the final 26 Martinez has selected.
|GK||Thibaut Courtois||Real Madrid (SPA)||30||96|
|GK||Simon Mignolet||Club Brugge (BEL)||34||35|
|GK||Koen Casteels||Wolfsburg (GER)||30||4|
|DEF||Toby Alderweireld||Royal Antwerp (BEL)||33||123|
|DEF||Arthur Theate||Stade Rennes (FRA)||22||3|
|DEF||Wout Faes||Leicester City (ENG)||24||1|
|DEF||Jan Vertonghen||Anderlecht (BEL)||35||141|
|DEF||Thomas Meunier||Borussia Dortmund (GER)||31||58|
|DEF||Timothy Castagne||Leicester City (ENG)||26||25|
|DEF||Zeno Debast||Anderlecht (BEL)||18||2|
|MID||Kevin de Bruyne||Man City (ENG)||31||93|
|MID||Hans Vanaken||Club Brugge (BEL)||30||22|
|MID||Youri Tielemans||Leicester City (ENG)||54||5|
|MID||Leander Dendoncker||Aston Villa (ENG)||27||29|
|MID||Amadou Onana||Everton (ENG)||21||2|
|MID||Yannick Carrasco||Atletico Madrid (SPA)||29||59|
|MID||Axel Witsel||Atletico Madrid (SPA)||33||126|
|MID||Charles de Ketelaere||AC Milan (ITA)||21||10|
|MID||Leandro Trossard||Brighton (ENG)||27||21|
|MID||Thorgan Hazard||Borussia Dortmund (GER)||29||45|
|FWD||Romelu Lukaku||Inter Milan (ITA)||29||102|
|FWD||Michy Batshuayi||Fenerbahce (TUR)||29||47|
|FWD||Dries Mertens||Galatasaray (TUR)||35||106|
|FWD||Eden Hazard||Real Madrid (SPA)||31||122|
|FWD||Lois Openda||Lens (FRA)||22||4|
|FWD||Jeremy Doku||Stade Rennes (FRA)||20||10|
The likes of Divock Origi, Jason Denayer and Dedryck Boyata were among the most notable absentees from the final squad.
Belgium World Cup group
The Red Devils have been drawn into Group F. Only the top two teams in each group will advance.
Belgium are the highest-ranked team in Group F and will open the tournament against John Herdman and Canada, before taking on African powers Morocco and 2018 finalists Croatia.
With a knockout place possibly already in hand, the final game against Croatia could be a solid litmus test of how ready Belgium is for their chase of World Cup glory.
World Cup Group F fixtures and match schedule
|Wed, Nov. 23||Morocco vs. Croatia||5 a.m.||Al Bayt|
|Wed, Nov. 23||Belgium vs. Canada||2 p.m.||Ahmad Bin Ali|
|Sun, Nov. 27||Belgium vs. Morocco||8 a.m.||Al Thumama|
|Sun, Nov. 27||Croatia vs. Canada||11 a.m.||Khalifa Int’l|
|Thurs, Dec. 1||Croatia vs. Belgium||10 a.m.||Ahmad Bin Ali|
|Thurs, Dec. 1||Canada vs. Morocco||10 a.m.||Al Thumama|
Belgium World Cup squad, lineup
Finding the third member to play alongside Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen will be the biggest challenge for manager Martinez at the 2022 World Cup. Zeno Debast could make a case.
Additionally, the midfield combination will be key. Premier League duo Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker look the most likely to start, but veteran Axel Witsel could still push for significant time, and Amadou Onana is also an option.
Romelu Lukaku is the starter up the middle when healthy, but he has also been used out wide by Martinez in past international tournaments, and could be deployed on the wing with Michy Batshuayi leading the way centrally. Finally, using Kevin de Bruyne correctly is a big key for Martinez, likely deployed as part of the front line, asking for him to cut in centrally while the wing-back overlaps.
Belgium projected starting XI vs Canada (3-4-3):
Courtois (GK) — Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Debast— Castagne, Tielemans, Dendoncker, Meunier — Hazard, Lukaku, De Bruyne.