Most would say it’s not been the greatest of season for the Red Devils. And they’d be right. Manchester United have been looking pretty lifeless under David Moyes but the Red Devils that are playing under Marc Wilmots, well that’s an entirely different story.
The Belgian national side have been impressive in the last few years; remaining unbeaten throughout the qualifiers for Brazil 2014. In a group with South Korea, Russia and Algeria they must surely be considered dark horses to win the World Cup in June.
Optimism is in stark contrast to previous years under Dick Advocaat and Franky Vercauteren with the European nation failing to qualify for the last two World Cup Finals. However, under quality leadership and star players that include the likes of Vincent Kompany, Mousa Dembele and Eden Hazard there are reasons to be hopeful.
Chelsea’s stand out man could steal the show in South America if his current form continues. 23-year-old Hazard has scored 14 goals this season for the Blues and is a candidate for the Premier League’s Player of the Season award.
But the goals don’t stop there for Belgium. The Premier League has been awash with great talent from across the North Sea for the last couple of seasons.
Simon Mignolet has ushered Pepe Reina out of the number one spot at Anfield; whilst Kompany, Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelen have consistently been up there with the best central defenders in England.
What is becoming an increasing talking point is the country’s array of attacking prowess. Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, who is a rumoured transfer target for Chelsea, and Christian Benteke have all been in outstanding form during the last 12 months.
Lukaku in particular has been dangerous alongside fellow countryman Kevin Mirallas at Everton, scoring nine goals in 18 starts, whilst Benteke’s strength and technique have seen him become Aston Villa’s leading man.
There are few nations heading to Rio as strong as Belgium this year. Everyone in the tournament will certainly be wary, despite the side only passing the Round of 16 once.
Lack of major international football experience is a concern but given the squad has an average age in the mid-20s, if they fail to succeed this year, expect even bigger things at the 2016 Euros in France and the next World Cup in Russia in 2018.