Euro 2016 team-by-team guide: Everything you need to know about Belgium
Kevin Palmer gives us the lowdown on Austria.
Tournaments odds: 11/1
Group E fixtures:
- June 13th vs Italy in Lyon
- June 18th vs Republic of Ireland in Bordeaux
- June 22nd vs Italy in Lille
COACH: Marc Wilmots
The coach charged with guiding the most golden generation of Belgian soccer stars in the nation’s history heads into Euro 2016 under pressure to deliver.
Wilmots can have no excuses if he fails to guide a side loaded with Premier League A-listers into the latter stages of the competition, with a semi-final spot the minimum expectation for a squad that are ready to take on Europe’s finest.
STAR MAN: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Herein lies the first major flaw in Belgium’s hopes for Euro 2016 glory.
Hazard was the shining star of England’s Premier League as he led Chelsea’s march towards title glory, yet his slide in form over the last few months has been so radical that there must be concerns over whether he can rise to the challenge in France this summer.
Injuries, dips in form, lack of confidence and a lack of commitment to the cause have all be used as excuses for Hazard, but Belgium need him to shake off his inhibitions and get back to his best in double quick time.
LOOK OUT FOR: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
While Hazard has lost his way in England’s Premier League this season, De Bruyne has confirmed his status as a world-class performer in his first season with City.
Living up to his billing after a mega-money move from Wolfsburg last summer, the importance of this former Chelsea star was felt in his absence with injury in the second half of the season and yet that lay-off should ensure he is heading into Euro 2016 fresh and ready to make his mark.
WILD CARD: Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)
A figure of ridicule for many United fans during his two years at Old Trafford, Belgium coach Marc Wilmots has shown faith in this lumbering midfielder and he could have a big role to play for Belgium this summer.
Fellaini scored four goals in the Euro 2016 qualifiers and while he has been used as a makeshift forward by United, he generally deployed in midfield by Wilmots and his physical presence can be useful when he bursts forward. He may be lacking in guile, but this frizzy-haired maverick can be hugely effective.
VERDICT: Belgium have the talent at their disposal to win Euro 2016, but they are heading into the tournament with plenty of question marks hanging over them could be a high profile early casualty.
The challenging group stage opponents that have been thrust in their path will test Belgium’s resolve to the full and if they come through those tests with their reputation intact, they should be battle-hardened for the latter stages of the competition.