5 Reasons Belgium Won't Win The World Cup
Could Belgium win the 2014 World Cup? Today on the blog Peter Sharland gives us 5 reasons to tone down the enthusiasm for everyone's favourite dark horse.
Belgium secured qualification for next year’s World Cup with another impressive victory, this time away in Zagreb as Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku grabbed both the goals in a 2-1 win. This sent punters, hipsters and purists alike into overdrive as everyone’s favourite dark horse finally booked their place in next summer’s party piece.
Belgium probably first came to the attention of the general footballing public in the qualification stages of Euro 2012, where their bright young team narrowly missed out on qualification. Since then a lot of their players have moved on to bigger and brighter things whilst their national side has gathered more and more momentum. That being said there is still a long way to go for Marc Wilmots’ side and to think they could lift the World Cup next summer is just plain foolhardy.
#1 – Experience
The last time Belgium qualified for a major international tournament was the World Cup in 2002. The only players of the current squad who were part of that squad were Daniel Van Buyten and Timmy Simons, neither of whom would be first choice starters at the moment.
Qualifying for a World Cup is one thing but when you are actually there, representing your nation it can get the better of even the most talented of players. The other problem is that a lot of these players lack experience at the pinnacle of domestic football as well. Aside from Van Buyten and Romelu Lukaku, neither of whom feature regularly at the moment, none of the current squad has made it to the Champions League semi-final stage.
#2 - Squad Depth
It has been noted more than once that Belgium do play with four centre-backs across their backline with Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld normally filling the full-back slots. These two are terrific central defenders but they are behind Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen in that respect so they end up playing out wide.
The lack of quality full-backs is painfully apparent at the moment and if Belgium get a couple of nasty injuries they have very few options in terms of cover. Most of the other strong European countries have more than ample replacements should injury befall their squad and at the back Belgium do look suspect.
It is not just their backline though. Up front they also look a little short on options. Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke is currently injured and his place has been admirably filled by Lukaku but if he too were to be injured Belgium are looking at either Jelle Vossen or Kevin Mirallas. It isn’t a good scenario and whilst much has been made of England’s current striking situation you would probably prefer to have the likes of Lambert, Defoe or Welbeck ahead of those two.
#3 - Climate Control
Playing a pre-season tour abroad is one thing but playing competitive games against some of the best players in the world, in a completely alien climate is going to be very, very tough. Qualifying for South Africa 2010 could have been a great experience for some of Belgian players but they will be up against it in Brazil.
The climate will be tricky and the atmosphere in the stadiums will be electric, especially if Belgium are drawn against the hosts. South American countries will be at an advantage in this respect even though many of their players actually play in Europe now. Ideally the Belgian FA will organise a couple of friendlies away in South America before next summer in order to help their players acclimatise.
#4 – Expectations
Let’s be honest, it has been a while since a team has entered an international tournament with this much hype surrounding them. I’m not talking about pre-tournament favourites, I mean a team that everyone is desperate to see play. There have always been teams that win your admiration and respect as the games progress but Belgium will enter Brazil 2014 as many people’s second favourites. The pressure will be on these (mostly) kids to make sure they don’t crack under the pressure and make sure they deliver on the world’s biggest stage.
For most of these players it will be the most important period in their careers to date and there is every possibility that some may freeze when presented with this huge opportunity. What happens if Belgium lose their opening game 3-0 and Lukaku, Benteke or Hazard miss a penalty? Could they pick themselves back up from that or would it all be downhill from there? Winning a World Cup does not mean winning every game in terrific style, it means winning when it matters and sometimes winning when you are very much second best in a match. The expectations on Belgium suggest they should really reach the quarter-final stage, it is up to the players that those expectations are fulfilled.
#5 - Don’t Forget About The Rest
Belgium may be an exceptionally talented side with some of the world’s players but the problem is that there are probably at least four or five sides that will harbour genuine ambitions of lifting the trophy. The three that immediately spring to mind are reigning champions Spain, the hosts Brazil, and Germany.
The Spanish have one of the most talented squads in history with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Silva, Piqué and Casillas. They were impervious in 2008,2010 and 2012 and there are few who would bet against them to make it four in a row.
Brazil have won five World Cups, more than any other nation but they have never won in Brazil and 2014 is the perfect opportunity to put that right. Their team is a balance of flair and stability with star names including Thiago Silva, Dani Alves and Barcelona’s newest recruit Neymar.
Then there is Germany, always a danger in every tournament and probably the only nation with a talent pool to match that of Spain. The pressure will be on Joachim Low to finally guide his prodigious stars to the final at least.
This is without considering the aspirations of the likes of Argentina, France, Italy, Holland, Colombia, Chile and even England. Perhaps not obvious favourites but nevertheless teams that will be looking to put on a good performance and try and go as far as they can.
Belgium are good and can certainly consider themselves in the second bracket. But in terms of winning the tournament, I would have thought Russia 2018 seems a far more logical choice.
Current 2014 World Cup Winner Odds - Odds as at 15th October 2013.
Follow Peter on Twitter: @psharland55