In recent years, few footballing countries have been as blessed as Belgium, with the Red Devils boasting some of the most impressive talent in the world in their squad. However, this golden generation of Belgian talent, which boasts huge names such as Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, have never enjoyed any sort of meaningful success at international level.
This summer’s European Championships was seen by many as last chance saloon for this group, yet Friday night’s defeat to Italy in the quarter-finals may well have ended this generation’s dreams of silverware.
It was a game of opposing narratives in Munich, as we saw Belgium‘s best side in living memory make way for a group of young, exciting Italians – the best Italian squad in years – who will be looking to pave their own way to success in the coming years.
The last few major international tournament can only be seen as a disappointment for Belgium. When you boast such an array of talent in your squad, you would expect success. A third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup, after defeat to France in the semis, is the closest this side have come.
A quarter-final defeat to an experienced Argentina side at the 2014 World Cup wasn’t a disaster, but elimination at Euro 2016 at the hands of a plucky Wales team will be viewed as a missed opportunity.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Belgians, however. With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar just around the corner, they won’t have to wait long for their next opportunity.
Although some players in the squad such as Thomas Vermaelen (35), Jan Vertonghen (34) and Toby Alderweireld (32) may not make the next World Cup, stars like Lukaku and De Bruyne won’t be going anywhere soon.
The defeat to Italy also brought some reason to be optimistic going forward, with 19-year-old winger Jeremy Doku putting in a standout performance and he could well be the first player to emerge in yet another promising generation.