With arguably the most talented squad in the world, the Belgium national team has a lot of pressure on it. From a country about the size of Maryland, the depth and young, emerging talent that the Red Devils own is incredible. But even with all the talent, Belgium is still missing the key ingredient that makes Emeril exclaim “Bam!” over.
Against the United States Men’s National Team, Belgium showed off its promise and talent, but it also displayed how the team struggles to win games and score goals. With all of the flashes of brilliance and the eye-opening ease the Red Devils often put forth when moving the ball, its the lack of a skilled veteran up front combined with the young cockiness that ultimately blocks the way from opening the door to the next step.
The good from Belgium and the bad from Belgium was on display against the USMNT on Tuesday.
Save for the wily, 34 year old midfielder Timmy Simons, the Belgians don’t have a player over the age of 28 and don’t possess a player who has scored more than five international goals. What also has to be noted is, that despite Simons and the stalwart duo Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany , plus Jan Vertonghen, there isn’t another player with over 30 caps. What this says is that this team is young and also changing.
Such a consistent change could bring about a lack of chemistry among the players. An attribute that is invaluable and one you cannot teach, but rather learn by playing with familiar players repeatedly. Despite Moussa Dembele owning a notable 33 caps, the 18-year-old Lukaku is the only forward with over 10 caps. The breakaway that Lukaku managed to turn into a laughable mishap late in the second half of his team’s 1-0 win over the Yanks, proves that perhaps, despite the talent, players like the lengthy forward aren’t quite there. The Chelsea striker, who is oft-compared to a younger Didier Drogba, could actually end up becoming a direct replica of the Cote D’Ivoire international, but only with careful molding and tutoring. Who better than Drogba himself?
What should have been an easy Euro 2012 qualifying game for Belgium turned sour and put its chances of qualifying in a funk. The Belgians are third in their group, two points behind Turkey.
Perhaps its the excitement that surrounds these players and the belief that their potential is limitless. Other less-known players worth all the hype are PSV’s Dries Martens and Axel Witsel of Benfica. Steven Defour and Chelsea keeper, now on loan to Atletico Madrid, Thibaut Courtois is also worth a mention. Belgium is certainly young, certainly talented, and on its way to success. It’s not yet seen when, or if this team can start coming together like one instead of 11 individuals, but if it can, then the world should sit down and get ready to watch. They just might have a year like 1986 and 2000 when they finished fourth in the World Cup and Olympics respectively.
Belgium is undoubtedly on the road to success, but its yet to be seen when the road will be found. Like the rain coming down Tuesday night in Brussels, unless the Red Devils find some consistency and unselfishness – that only comes with playing together more – they will find themselves going sideways instead of playing in the Euro and even worse, failing to qualify for the World Cup Finals in three years.
Ryan Fleming can be reached at Ryan.Fleming@thesoccerguysonline.com.