Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois- just to name a few- were all apart of Belgium’s golden generation. Tournament after tournament, they would be tipped for glory because, after all, why shouldn’t a team only comparable to an all-star team be the favourites?
Betting on those in red looked the easiest money made in the world from the outside looking in. On paper, sure, they looked the best. They were the diamond in the auction compared to the silver around them. But on the pitch, that diamond soon shrivelled all the way back down to a very basic rock. Every time a World Cup or European Championships came around, everyone would admire Belgium’s plethora of stars before saying goodbye to the same players with the final yet to come. And Euro 2020 was one tournament too many.
Belgium’s Golden Generation Has Failed
Jeremy Doku Should Be the Centrepiece
One noticeable spark from a disappointing night for Belgium was Jeremy Doku. The Rennes winger, at 19, looked far from out of place. In fact, instead, he looked in his comfort zone as he glided past Italians with ease. If Roberto Martinez is looking for an Eden Hazard replacement, Doku is his man. To take to the pitch in the last eight of the Euros without fear, against Italy, takes some doing. Eight completed dribbles later, however, and it was clear that Doku doesn’t feel that anxiety on the big stage.
The aforementioned tally is the most a teenager has completed in a major tournament since the data began being collected in 1966. The future is undoubtedly bright for the teenager who will attract plenty of big names this summer.
So as Belgium look to rebuild, they should look to Doku as their man for both the present and future. Hand him a starting place alongside De Bruyne and Lukaku and watch him thrive; watch him become the latest diamond in the Belgium squad.
Belgium Must Focus on Defensive Improvements
The year is 2021 and Thomas Vermaelen just started the last eight of the European Championships for Belgium. And, no, that’s not a joke from a viral tweet; it’s Belgium’s reality. The defender should have played his last game of international football years ago; you simply shouldn’t have to rely on a 35-year-old Vissel Kobe centre-back at a major tournament. That’s where Belgium have failed.
It’s almost as if Roberto Martinez was building his very own fantasy team, making the common mistake of blowing the budget on the frontline before spending the rest of what becomes a meagre fee on defensive reinforcements. And, like many fantasy football managers, Martinez has given up after a handful of games.
It should act as a harsh lesson to Belgium. As the next generation comes through, the focus should be on finding a standout defender. If they can do that by the 2022 World Cup, they’ll once again find themselves at the top table.
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