The highlight for Belgium at the World Cup remains the 2018 bronze

The highlight for Belgium at the World Cup remains the 2018 bronze

Belgium’s golden age is over. The best generation ever leaves the World Cup in Qatar in a secondary way. National coach Roberto Martinez’s team was knocked out in the first round and did not shine for a moment. The vast majority of Belgian internationals will not be present at the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico. “We are very disappointed,” Martinez said afterwards in a loud voice in the press room of the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan. He immediately announced his departure. “This was my last game as a national coach. I am very proud of my players. We made history in six years.”

Belgium is a classic case of an outdated group that has had one final round too many. This makes saying goodbye to a unique group of players excruciating. With Romelu Lukaku as an evening schlemiel. The not-quite-fit forward, who had a number of chances to shoot Belgium take on Croatia into the Final Eight, suffered frustration after that. Martinez hugged his players on the field afterwards, knowing that his time in Belgium was now over.

The World Cup in Qatar was a great torment for the team of Belgian figure Kevin De Bruyne (31). In their first group match with Canada, the team was completely bypassed for large parts of the match and it was fortunate that a goal from Michy Batshuayi was enough to secure a lucky win. Three days later, Morocco exposed Belgium’s weaknesses. After the shocking defeat (2-0) something happened in the team. Jan Vertonghen and Eden Hazard told each other the truth in harsh terms afterwards in the dressing room.

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Gaps in correlated selection have been widely reported by Walloons and Flemings. So went a story in the French sports newspaper L’Equipe Where there was talk of a brawl between the players, they took on a life of their own in Belgium. To the dismay of national coach Martínez, who dismissed the story as nonsense, and accused the French newspaper False news He wants to discredit his team and asks the Belgian media to support their national selection.

No young talent

Belgium tried to keep its ranks closed, preparing for the duel with Croatia. At the same time, Martinez found it necessary to provide his team with new batches. But the Spaniard did not bring the young talent. For example, Dries Mertens (35) and Leandro Trossard (27) are favored in attack over Eden Hazard (31) and Batshuayi (29). Lukaku (29) started on the bench.

De Bruyne remained undisputed leader until the final whistle. Belgium’s No. 7 tried to take the team into its own hands. This only worked on occasions. In the second half, De Bruyne was still assisted by substitute Lukaku, who was only able to play half due to a persistent injury. The Inter Milan striker was very close to scoring a goal no less than four times, but he did not become a savior for Belgium. Lukaku did not score this World Cup and remained in 68 goals for the national team.

Romelu Lukaku (L) missed some great chances for Belgium against Croatia.

Photo by Albert Jia/Reuters

With Belgium coming to an end, De Bruyne released his frustrations. The West Flanders playmaker lacked arms and legs in the last phase to correct his teammates. He saw his dream of becoming a world champion slowly fade away. This has hurt one of the best footballers in the world, who has never won a major international award. Not even with his club, Manchester City.

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defeats against Orange

De Bruyne is the face of the best Belgian footballers. ‘KDB’ is ‘keikop’, a soccer player who can’t afford to lose. As a Manchester City professional, he is not used to being defeated. And in Belgium it was not. This year, the “Red Devils” have only lost a friendly match against Egypt at the World Cup and twice in the Nations League against the Netherlands. The defeats against the Orangemen turned out to be not accidents, but a harbinger of failure in the World Cup.

The end of this class of Belgian footballers is unexpectedly soon. Martinez had to hide in the press room so as not to burst into tears during his final press conference. As if anticipating it, Martinez paid tribute to his experienced old team a day before the match against Croatia at the Doha Press Centre. “Belgium can be proud of a great generation of footballers,” he said. “A very nice group to work with.”

The national coach, who captured the Belgian national team in 2016, finished third in the World Cup Russia 2018 as best. This team surpassed the successful team since the eighties, which finished fourth in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. At the time, Belgium surprised friend and foe by eliminating superpowers such as the Soviet Union and Spain with its conservative football. For a long time, the Belgians believed that this was the only way to success.

Wrong idea. With eight players – De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard, Lukaku and Mertens – Martinez has shown that Belgium can also produce results through attractive football. They have stolen the hearts of both domestic and international football fans over the past decades. That time is now over in one fell swoop. Morocco and Croatia continue to occupy the Belgian golden generation in third place in the group at the 2022 World Cup.

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