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Belgium: Can teamwork make the dream work?

9 June 2018
The amount of top players in Belgiums squad for the FIFA World Cup in Russia is stunning. The big question is: can all those individuals become a great team to claim the biggest prize in football?
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Chances of Winning

Using our unique simulation tool, Remiqz is able to predict the course of the FIFA World Cup. According to our calculations, there is a solid 8.0% chance that Belgium will win the tournament this summer. This makes them the seventh most likely winner of the FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Belgium is placed in Group G alongside England, Panama and Tunisia, which gives them a 96.7% chance of reaching the next round. According to our simulation tool, Tunisia has only a 4.4% chance of progressing to the last 16, while Panama has to settle for a mere 1.1%. Furthermore, England and Belgium will meet each other in the last game, so this is not promising to be a very exciting group.

Selection

Belgium have a squad that is incredibly rich in quality, with nearly all players from the starting 11 seeing regular action at top clubs in Europe’s best competitions. Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne (EPI: 5532) and Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku (EPI: 4805) stand out.

Belgium has left Radja Nainggolan (EPI: 4220) home. The colorful haired midfielder was one of AS Roma’s most consistent performers this year, a team that managed to reach the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League. Nainggolan, who smokes, is left behind not only for tactical and technical reasons, but also because Martínez thinks he will be too much of a nuisance when he is not a regular starter.

Playing Style

Dries Mertens said something remarkable this week. During a press conference, he noted: ,,The Dutch have their attacking 4-3-3. The Spanish have their tiki-taka. The Italians have their defensive mindset of not wanting to lose. What do the Belgians have? I don’t know…”

When a country does not have a determined style of play, a lot comes down to the ideas of their coach. Belgiums manager Roberto Martínez was influenced by Johan Cruijff personally, because of Martínez’ friendship with his son Jordi. His teams have shown the same values as Cruijffs teams: a patient build-up from the back, lots of individual freedom in attack and a high press when the ball is lost, even though this is harder to do at a national team, because there is less time to train.

His principles are clear, and at Wigan Athletic, Martínez was one of the first coaches in Europe who reintroduced a formation with three center backs. He does the same with this Belgium squad, playing a 3-2-4-1. This creates a lovely square in the middle of the pitch with Kevin De Bruyne and either Axel Witsel or Mousa Dembélé as holding midfielders, in addition to Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens as 10s who roam all over the final third.

Even though this is Belgiums golden generation, it has become a pattern that they progress from the group because of their talent and then lose in the KO-rounds of the tournament. For Belgium to win the FIFA World Cup in Russia, they must show true team work and fighting spirit to bring the cup to Brussels.

(Images by Pro Shots)