The future is Belgian

by admin

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Arsenal announced their first summer signing, unveiling Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen (23) as heir apparent to, well, probably Sol Campbell.

He is the first Belgian to play for Arsenal (I think) which I interpret as more evidence in support of one of my more bizarre beliefs; Belgium could become one of the best teams around within the next 5-10 years. Don’t laugh, let me explain.

Belgian football has been in a rut since losing to England at Italia 90 (remember David Platt?). However a glance around Europe suggests that a new generation of exciting young players is coming through, breathing new life into the national team.

Vermaelen plays next to Bayern Munich regular Daniel Van Buyten (30) in defence. Both are fearsome competitors and have been very solid at the back in recent world cup qualifiers.

Marouane Fellaini (21) surprised many with his composed midfield performances for Everton this season, and his former Standard Liege colleague Steven Defour (21) has been monitored closely by top clubs across the continent (and Aston Villa). Both are regular starters for their country. Vincent Kompany (23), impressive in the holding role for Manchester City this season, gives them freedom to express themselves in the middle of the park.

Up front Moussa Dembele (22) could well be a Chelsea player before they entertain Hull on August 15, having scored the goals that secured the Dutch championship for AZ Alkmaar last season.

Fleet footed winger Axel Witsel (20) is a real handful, and has attracted attention from Manchester United, who rate Witsel so highly that last January they bought a Belgian defender (Ritchie De Laet) who is good mates with him, to entice him during the summer. (allegedly)

But is there a real spark to this team? That extra layer of class and ability? The ‘Maradona’ effect? Well, quite, quite possibly there is. A young lad getting a few matches for Lille by the name of Eden Hazard (no relation to Micky) is getting serious attention from Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United.

He is still only 18 and is being billed as the next Zidane. In brief he could become immense.

My point is this. With this core of relatively unknown, yet very good players, Belgium could scale new heights. If they can develop a system that suits the team, and gets the last drop of commitment from players, they’ll be very difficult to beat.

In my humble opinion they need only two things to make the step up;

Firstly, they need a reliable keeper. Doesn’t need to be world class – just good enough not to throw the ball into his own net (ref. Filip de Wilde Euro 2008).

Secondly, they need a world class manager. Now this is interesting. Dick Advocaat has apparently agreed to take over the reins in 2010. Is he World class? Quite possibly.

There are lots of ifs and buts, but if the pieces fall into place, the future could be bright. The future……… Belgian.

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  • dexylongshot

    I was listening to a documentary about this very subject a couple of weeks ago, they have some blinding players coming through. I’m just a bit surprised some of their u21s didn’t reach the finals in Sweden……but let’s not ponder on that.

  • Matt Quinn

    I agree. Belgium have a core of very decent players. If this Hazard kid turns out to be the new Enzo Scifo then they will be dark horses for the next few world cups.

    Mind you, i thought this about Switzerland a few years ago….

    …and Colombia a few years before that.

  • Darren

    Enzo Scifo, now you are talking, and Yan Coolamans (SP), he was the original Steve Archibald, socks round the ankles, great player. It’s been years since Belguim had a decent side, 1986 actually!

  • edwellard

    Enzo Scifo is in my top ten of best ever footballers names

    Nice work FIK

  • dexylongshot

    Scifo, he was pure class, his long range efforts live long in the memory!

  • Michael

    would be great to see the Belgiums go far in euro 2010, would be like Greece yet better!

  • TQB

    You can add Lukaku to that list. Can’t believe that lad is only 16.

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