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Saturday 23 August 2014

World Cup team preview: Belgium

Published 14/05/2014 | 15:15

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All eyes will be on Belgium in Brazil as to see if soaring expectations will be met
All eyes will be on Belgium in Brazil as to see if soaring expectations will be met

With 28 days until hosts Brazil entertain Croatia in the World Cup opener, we still have 28 teams to preview. Today it is the growing football powerhouse Belgium

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Group H: Algeria, Russia, South Korea

Tournament odds: 18/1

After a comfortable qualification and a favourable group draw, expectations are rising that Belgium could cause a few upsets this summer.

After the big four of Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany, Marc Wilmots’ Belgians are next in line according to the bookies to mount the most serious threat in South America.

Not only will the eyes of the football world be on the country’s so-called ‘Golden Generation’, expectation at home is rising steadily too.

On the eve of the team's qualifying campaign in 2012, a Belgian newspaper calculated that in terms of transfer fees, Belgium's starting 11 was the third most expensive in the world behind Brazil and Portugal.

The current crop will have to realise their potential if they are to at the very least emulate the exploits of the 1986 vintage, semi-finalists in Mexico.

Ranked outside the top 50 in the world at the start of the qualification campaign, by the end of it they were in fifth position, with an exciting batch of young and talented footballers.

Courtois, Kompany, Vertonghen, fellaini, Mirallas, Hazard, Dembele and Lukaku are just some of the players available to Wilmots and will be handful for any side in Brazil.

How they got here

The Belgians made light work of qualification, with their only dropped points at home, when Serbia and surprisingly Wales left with a point each.

The stand-out performances were awy wins in Serbia (3-0) and Croatia (2-1) courtesy of a brace from Lukaku.

Key player

Their attacking prowess is second to none, but like any side with lofty ambitions, the defence will be key.

Thibaut Courtois has shown his level of ability in the Champions League to complement consist performances in La Liga for Atletico Madrid, but huge responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Vincent Kompany.

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The Manchester City defender is fresh from Premier League celebrations but has spoken recently that the World Cup will realise all his boyhood dreams.

A leader and a supreme organiser, his only blemish this season was at Anfield, where he clearly was not match fit during City's 3-2 defeat that looked like a title-defining game.

Belgium’s chances will be a whole lot more realistic if he’s fit and available.

Something you might not know about Belgium

97 per cent of Belgians have access to cable TV, the highest percentage in the world.

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