Time for Belgium's golden generation to deliver
By Vincent Smith-Koppie
Why they can win
This is Belgium’s best ever chance of winning silverware and the nation that has only reached the World Cup semi-finals is daring to dream.
Their midfield is full of talent like Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) and Eden Hazard (Chelsea) who are reaching the prime of careers, and they are led up front by Belgium’s all-team leading goal scorer, Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United).
They are supported at the back by veterans Vincent Kompany (Manchester City) and Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur) with the reliable Thibaut Courtois (Cheslea) between the sticks.
Belgium seem to have the perfect mix of youth and experience and finished on top of their group in qualifying, with nine wins and one draw from their ten matches.
With the golden generation assembled and on a ruthless run of form Belgium have never had a better chance to break their major tournament duck than in Russia.
What will stop them
They may have the golden generation but with that comes uncharted territory. While the other front runners are full of players with the experience of playing in finals at major international tournaments, Belgium has none of that.
Inexperience and high expectations are a dangerous combination and that’s exactly what Belgium face in Russia. It was a similar squad which entered the Euros in 2016 full of hope only to crumble and be knocked out by a relatively weak Welsh side in the quarter-finals.
There are also concerns over their formation with a 3-4-3 being favoured by Martinez despite the side lacking genuine wing backs. Even De Bruyne has openly questioned the tactic. There are also some concerns that the side may be too reliant on Lukaku for goals.
All of this along with a likely quarter-final match up with Brazil ensures Belgium have a difficult task ahead.
World ranking: 3
Coach: Roberto Martinez
Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels, Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet.
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Meunier, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen.
Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco, Kevin de Bruyne, Mousa Dembele, Leander Dendoncker, Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard, Adnan Januzaj, Dries Mertens, Youri Tielemans, Axel Witsel.
Forwards: Michy Batshuayi, Nacer Chadli, Romelu Lukaku.
Notable omissions: Radja Nainggolan
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez was forced to defend his decision to leave out the AS Roma midfielder.
He says the decision was purely tactical but Nainggolan, who has since announced his international retirement, claims it has more to do with Martinez disagreeing with his lifestyle choices, namely his smoking habit.