Why Belgium Will Win the 2018 World Cup

A few weeks ago I was shown Dan Warren’s infamous 2003 article predicting how players like David ‘sicknote’ Dunn, Neil ‘Fatty’ Mellor, Chris ‘Baseball Cap’ Kirkland and Martin ‘only famous for breaking Eduardo’s ankle’ Taylor would be helping England manager Alan Shearer lift the elusive European trophy in 2008.

With England failing to qualify for Euro 2008, let alone challenge for the trophy, the article’s been doing the rounds and has inspired me to put my neck on the line by making a similarly (seemingly) ridiclous prediction.

Obviously touting England for success in Russia 2018 would be crazy, whilst Pepe Bluefields showed there’s a lot of potential in the squad with his ‘Future England XI’…let’s not kid ourselves.

Belgium on the other hand, despite not qualifying for a major tournament since 2002(!), are a team to keep an eye on during the next 10 years. The highly anticipated ‘Golden Generation’ of Belgian footballers are slowly beginning to prove themselves in the top leagues around Europe…

Goalkeepers

Possibly the most highly rated teen goalkeeper in world football at the moment is Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois (currently on loan at Atletico Madrid). The nineteen year-old 6 ft 6 giant signed for Chelsea in summer 2011 and was sent straight out to replace the recently departed David de Gea.

Competing with Courtois for the Belgium No. 1 shirt will be Sunderland’s impressive 23 year old shot-stopper Simon Mignolet, who’s been able to keep his place in the Mackems’ goal ahead of the ex-‘most expensive goalkeeper in the Premier League’ Craig Gordon and Kieren Westwood. Six years time is a long way away, plenty of time for either goalkeeper to prove himself as a Joe Hart-esque superstar, or a Chris Kirkland-esque flop.

Defence

Two of the most feared defenders in the Premier League are likely to be competing for the centre-back spot alongside the current Ajax captain.

At 25 years old Vincent Kompany, is already the captain of the Belgium National Team and some other team called Manchester City. First known as a wonderkid at Anderlecht before moving to Hamburg, Kompany will be 32 by the time Russia 2018 kicks off.

Arsenal’s 26 year old Thomas Vermaelen has played a massive part in Arsenal’s resurgance this season after an Achilles injury kept him out of much of 2011. As powerful as they come, Vermaelen will also be 32 at the 2018 World Cup.

Ajax’s 24 year old captain Jan Vertonghen has been linked with some of the richest clubs in Europe, and a move to Eastlands to join Vincent Kompany could happen in 2012. With Vertonghen being 31 at the 2018 World Cup, he (alongside Kompany and Vermaelen) will be hoping that their careers don’t peak too early.

The full-back positions currently look to be the weakest positions for a young Belgium side. Man City’s 21 year old Dereck Boyata (left) (currently on loan at Bolton) however still looks to be a promising talent. Hoping to compete with Boyata will be Anthony Vanden Borre (right), although Genk’s 24 year old right back has struggled to live up to the high expectations placed upon him whilst he was a teenager.

Without any natural left-back showing signs of world class potential, the whole of Vertonghen’s national career may be destined for that spot, as it has been so far, with him being unable to fight off competition from Kompany, Vermaelen and the aging Daniel van Buyten.

Midfield

If you’re to watch out for any Belgian player during the next 6 years, it’d better be Lille’s Eden Hazard.

The 20 year old has had an outrageous 2011 (as predicted by Pepe Bluefields), and is now accepted as one of the most dangerous playmakers in Europe. It’s only a matter of time before he gets his big move to a top European club, most likely to be Real Madrid.

Accompanying Hazard in the midfield might be Everton giant Marouane Fellaini, currently aged 24, the powerful ‘all-elbows’ centre midfielder will be 30 in 2018. Also aged 24 is Fulham’s highly rated midfielder Moussa Dembélé. Legend has it that the strong, skillful Dembélé has never been successfully tackled in his whole professional career to date, and Fulham will be facing a struggle to keep hold of him as bigger clubs come looking for the un-tackleable Belgian.

Other names to watch out for are Genk’s Kevin de Bruyne (left), Benfica’s Axel Witsel (centre), and Porto’s Steven Defour (right). Aged 20, 22 and 24 respectively, all are versatile midfielders and will be hoping to progress to succeed at the top level over the next few years.

As far as out-and-out wingers go though, PSV’s goal crazy Dries Mertens (left) and Twente’s pacy Nacer Chadli (right) are two to keep your eyes on. Mertens (24) has scored 13 from 17 games in the Eredevisie this season, including one hat-trick and one four-goal haul. Whilst Chadli (22) has taken the reins over from the departed Bryan Ruiz at Twente to become one of the best players in the league.

Strikers

The likelihood of Belgium having a successful generation will largely be dependent on them having a world class strikeforce. The likes of Jelle Vossen (left) and Kevin Mirallas (right) appear promising, but together they won’t win the World Cup for you…

Romelu Lukaku might just though.

At just 18 years old, Chelsea’s 6 ft. 3in striker has been labelled as one of the stars of the future. Boasting pace, power and an ability to score plenty of goals – Chelsea spent upto £18 million on a player they hope can become their new Didier Drogba.

Warning!

With 2018 a whole 6 years away, tipping a team who haven’t played in a major tournament since Leicester City were in the Premier League is a bold (or maybe stupid) thing to do.

However, if the players reach their apparent potential, Russia 2018 could be a real opportunity for Belgium’s Golden Generation. Whether Belgium will have the strength in depth compared to the likes of ‘usual suspects’ Brazil, Spain, Germany and so on will be interesting to see – but the quality and quantity of young Belgians all coming through at the same time, is staggering.

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  • Frak

    You spelled “ridiculous wrong.”

    • http://www.andrew-crump.co.uk Andrew Crump

      spelt “ridiculous” wrong.

      • Joe

        both are correct

  • Goombario

    Are you gonna showcase the youth of every country in a prediction to win a world cup just so you can link to it years from now and say “I told you so”?

  • Mayankkandari7

    nice mate they may will win but there other countries too

  • Boots Battaglia

    why not 2014? hazard will probably be in madrid or somewhere roughly comparable by then, de bruyne could be at chelsea, lukaku could be a starter tearing shit up in the epl and the midfield and cbs listed will prob all be in their primes

    • Ollie

      Pretty much spot on except Hazard is at Chelsea with De Bruyne, either way a huge club and Belgium is my dark horse for 2014. It will be interesting though to see which players will actually take the field.

  • http://ninetyminutesonline.com/ Garethmcknight

    Really liked the article, and agree that Belgium have a number of excellent prospects coming through – should be a tough opponent for Scotland and Wales in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

    You forgot Ajax right back Toby Alderweireld, who may solve your full back dilemma, and also Cagliari midfielder Radja Nainggolan who has been linked with a move to Juventus and AC Milan. At 22 and 23 years old both could also be key players

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  • Joe

    Euro2016 maybe, WC2018 no chance

    • martin12345

      ? euro’s are harder to win than world cups !

      no trinidad and tobago at the euro’s, only top teams, no quota’s.

  • Michaeljrichards

    The problem Belgium have is qualifying for major tournaments. As they are seeded so low they have pull out all the stops just to make to a Euro’s or a World Cup. Agreed with a comment before that they do have a number of excellent prospects. If they can all ‘gel’ together then they could be a major force at a tournament but it is a big ask for them to get there. Glad England didn’t draw them to be honest in 2014 qualification – think they would embarrass us I’m saddened to say.

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  • Battyboy

    I’m from Belgium, people said the same thing for WC2010, which we didnt even qualified for. We’re not even going to EC2012.
    Problem is they can’t get results. They were far better than Turkey last qualifier, but only got 1/6 !! After pretty much dominating them both games. Germany (unbeaten) didn’t know where to begin @ Brussels, yet managed to go home with the win….. And it’s always individual mistakes. Always. Against Austria, the game in we, Belgium people started to believe in the team again, really believing it’s a gold generation, we lost two points (4-4), 4 individual mistakes…

    Our left- and right back totally blow (we put Vermaelen left and Alderweireld right, but they are both pure centerbacks, unlike what some other dude posted here below), but that’s not really our problem. Our problem is Lukaku isn’t developping fast enough and isn’t playing. Vossen & Ogunjimi just can’t do it (yet???), Mirallas is complete shit (He’s probably only in this article because he played champions league this year, in which offcourse he was complete shit, again). Nothing good is coming in that position either :(

    If Lukaku can become the star we all hope him to be, your article may be close, but if not, they won’t even be at Russia!

    • Nkahn89

      No one said that for 2010 you idiot! if you think mirallas is complete shit, you really are too stupid to talk, the man is a beast. you realize were talking about football and not rugby moron?!?

      • Guest

        what is your problem

      • martin12345

        calm down !

        yes, in Belgium people have been talking about this generation since 2008, we did not wait for the premier league to discover them !

  • Mr Shrubber

    You are assuming two things:

    1) Belgium will actually succeed in qualifying.
    2) Belgium will still be a country by 2018.

    I’m not putting money on either.

    • martin12345

      and now ?

  • Guest

    Nice joke. They’re piss-poor as a team – always finishing 3rd-4th in the quals

    • JNJ26

      FU bitch we’re first in qualifications for group A now

  • Max

    Just because a country has youth talent, firstly does not mean all these players will become or even still be superstars in six years time. Secondly, it is unlikely that both their centre backs will still be world class when they are in their thirties. Finally, do you not think that Spain, Germany or any other European country are producing more and better youth talent? They also constantly have a strong squad full of experience.

  • SING 4 England!

    I don’t think they will win as they played most of these stars against England and we beat them furthermore Belgium played really badly in that game.

    BUY SING 4 ENGLAND ON iTUNES NOW!!!

    • Nkahn89

      wrong belgium were clearly the better team in that game

  • matt

    hmmm lets not forget lukaku and hazard both have younger brothers which by the sounds of it are both better.

    • http://twitter.com/arnemaes Arne

      this is untrue, Thorgan’s ceiling is lower than Eden’s. Jordan Lukaku may actually become as great as his brother but he’s not as physically imposing, he may be the future answer to the conondrum at Left-Back though.

  • JDMG

    In the World Cup of 2002, Belgium could have been World Champion if the referee Peter Prendergast wasn’t corrupted!! He was wel paid by the Brazlian committee and that has been proven. The goal of Wilmots in the 1/8 finale Belgium-Brazil was pure, such a shame! We haven’t forgotten and it shall never be forgotten. Like Julius Caesar said about us, we are robust ones, we will take revenge from Brazil and Wilmots as coach will achieve this.

  • BBB

    I think they may surprise you this time around….and then all you sceptics will have to eat your words!!! Go Oliver, I am with you on this one!!

  • LOL

    theyre gonna get to the quarters, maybe semis, but not win

  • Ameen

    4-5-1: Courtois; Alderweireld, Kompany, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Dembélé, Fellaini, Witsel, Nainggolan, Hazard; Lukaku.

    • Ollie

      Change that to and out and out 4-3-3. Mignolet; Alderweireld, Kompany, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Dembele, Fellaini, Witsel( at attacking mid); De Bruyne( who can float some into the center), Hazard, Lukaku. Benteke can also play. That will be an interesting decision for Wilmots. There are many interchangeable players as well though. Chadli can play on the wing, as well as drifting a little more central like De Bruyne. Although Simons is quite old and not getting any younger, he can provide experience and discipline in center midfield if Dembele or Fellaini( Fellaini in particular) is not getting the job done. Last but not least, Mirallas to provide a spark plug up top. He is not a conventional Center Forward but he can play and would make it interesting.

      • Ollie

        I understand I basically took away from the point of naming a starting eleven with all of my chatter but its still pertinent to the conversation.

  • Simontew

    Why not WC 2014

  • Tadious

    And Christian Benteke?

  • Coach

    Since then Benteke has come through as a superb striker at Villa, Lukaku is playing regulat at WBA, Dembele and Vertongen are playing well at Spurs, and of course Hazard id at Chelsea, so this article could very well prove true.

    • Ollie

      Not too mention De Bruyne as well, earning a spot in Jose Mourinho’s midfield.

      • martin12345

        at least trying to earn a spot.

        but he will not get it, de Bruyne should move in the winter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/al.key.790 Al Key

    This seems more and more possible seeing the excellent performance of many Belgians in the Premiership.

  • DarthVader

    Nevermind, I will put my money on them for a top 4 finish this world cup! Look at the qualifiers! And you missed Benteke!

  • martin12345

    nice, you were way ahead of most other people predicting Belgium could be the next big thing, so many things have changed since you wrote this, most players moved to much bigger clubs since.

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