Has the time come for Belgium’s golden generation? (Team Profile)

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Brussels, June 8 (IANS) After a disappointing quarter-final defeat to minnows Wales at Euro 2016, Belgium’s golden generation now have another, possibly final chance to fulfil their potential at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

With talent like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Vincent Kompany on their roster, the ‘Red Devils’ advanced to Russia with the best squad they have ever had and a record-breaking qualification campaign that saw them win nine out of ten matches and score 43 goals, reports Xinhua news agency.

However, this golden generation has failed to reach the last eight at the last two major tournaments (the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 ), leading many to question whether they can surpass the achievement of their predecessors in the 1986 World Cup, when Belgium beat the Soviet Union to reach the semi-finals before losing to Maradona’s Argentina.

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In fact, there is not much time for them to prove to the world what they can really do.

Key players like Vincent Kompany (32),Jan Vertonghen (31),Toby Alderweireld (29), Mousa Dembele (31), Axel Witsel (29), will all be pushing 33 and beyond by the time the 2022 World Cup comes around. Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, the brightest stars in the golden generation, will both be 31 by then.

Roberto Martinez, who took over coaching duties for Belgium in the summer of 2016, must inspire his team to click and put up a proper challenge for the title.

Although it is his first time coaching a national team, we know the 44-year-old Spaniard is not afraid of making a controversial decision after he excluded Radja Nainggolan from his squad for the World Cup.

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In Martinez’s preferred 3-4-3 shape, the crucial problem is whether De Bruyne and Hazard can fulfil their potential together.

De Bruyne, who is regarded as the new leader of Belgium, scored eight goals and provided 15 assists for a record-breaking Manchester City team this season and a brilliant World Cup would make him a strong competitor for the Ballon d’Or.

Lukaku will lead the line for Belgium. The 24-year-old is his country’s all-time leading scorer with 33 goals in 66 appearances.

Belgium head into the World Cup ranked third in the world and paired alongside Panama, Tunisia and England in Group G.

The ‘Red Devils’ should make it into the last 16 without problems. If they can win Group G ahead of England, Brazil are likely to be waiting for them in the quarter-finals.

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–IANS

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