Betting odds aside, Belgium are here and ready to take over top spot in world football. Lead by elite players from all over Europe, the Belgian attack is lethal and unrelenting. Strikers? Michy Batshuayi and Romelu Lukaku. Forwards? Dries Mertens, Yannick Carrasco, and Eden Hazard. Midfielders? Kevin De Bruyne, Moussa Dembele, and Thorgen Hazard. Oh, and Thibault Courtois in net. Yeah – they’re stacked to the gills and will be a heavy favourite to make it to the finals simply based on their skill alone. The players have been clicking in pre-tournament tune ups and hopefully for them the Belgian machine is fine tuned and ready to roll.
A few (of many) players to watch for:
Romelu Lukaku – The big man up top for Manchester United, Lukaku has a bit of his chip on his shoulder, and something to prove for himself as he is often slated as only being able to score against lesser opponents. With the world watching Lukaku will work to shatter that myth. He managed 27 goals in 51 games (all competitions) this season, so he knows where to go for goals. But he is a superstar – striker at Manchester United, and even has his face plastered on bus stop ads here in Toronto! Look out for the big man, coming fresh off of a brace against Costa Rica.
Kevin De Bruyne – Pulling the strings in the midfield with Premier League winners Manchester City, KDB bossed it this season and has crept up the rankings of top players in the world. He is an assist king – whether it be over the top, a long pass down the wing, or a slick and slicing through ball to spring an attack forward, he always seems to find his targets. 16 Premier League assists, and 21 total in all competitions, De Bruyne makes his teammates better and is a good shout for tournament MVP.
Dries Mertens – The centre forward from Napoli has been a revelation this season for Italian side Napoli and their quest to topple Juventus atop Serie A. Although they finished second, Merten’s goal scoring ability helped in their ascension up the ranks of Italian football, as he scored 18 goals in 38 league games, adding 6 assists in the process. His application will be interesting to see; as a centre forward he can be an out and out striker or roam behind Lukaku and Batshuayi. Wherever he slots in for Belgium look for his name to frequent the score sheet.
Outside of the bookies favourites, Germany and Brazil, France and Belgium are both two insanely talented and young squads that can have coming out parties in Russia this year. The attacking power on Belgium is equally balances by their defenders : Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Kompany, Munier, Dendoncker. The squad is nicely assembled and has players like Fellaini, Dembele, and T. Hazard who can be used in specific roles to help close out wins. Do not be surprised if the Belgian team is lifting the trophy at the end of the tournament!