How credible are Vincent Kompany's claims that Belgium could be the 'surprise package' in Brazil?
Belgium have a truly talented team with quality in every department. It is epitomised by the fact that Simon Mignolet and Thibaut Courtois are competing for the goalkeeper’s position.
Both keepers have been in stunning form and have shown great reflexes this season, with Courtois recording a remarkable 20 clean sheets in 35 appearances and letting in a miserly average of 0.68 goals per match. Liverpool’s Mignolet may not have better stats to boast of, but he has shown his class since his transfer to the Reds last summer. Choosing one over the other might prove to be a tough job for Belgium coach Marc Wilmots.
The Belgian defence looks stronger than ever, thanks to the presence of top-class players such as Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Daniel Van Buyten and Thomas Vermaelen. Although there are worries about the full-back position, Wilmots could tweak his team’s formation to accommodate a back-three with a defensive midfielder sitting in front. This would allow them to play a pacy and attacking style down the middle.
In Marouane Fellaini and Mousa Dembele, Belgium have central midfielders who can turn any game in their favour. Although there has been some criticism surrounding Fellaini this year, Wilmots correctly underlined that United have played him as a second No. 6 when he is actually a box-to-box midfielder. If the two Premier League players link up to control the midfield, then they could win half the game on their own.
Although Christian Benteke has been ruled out, Romelu Lukaku should have no problem in playing as the lone striker in front of a three-man attacking midfield, and therein lies Belgium’s greatest strength. Eden Hazard, Kevin Mirallas, Kevin De Bruyne, Alex Witsel and Adnan Januzaj are all young, dynamic and skilful players and have already been tipped to have great futures.
Belgium's starting line-up already looks like a star-studded one that should be feared. Although bench strength and depth of squad are proven key features of World Cup contenders, if Wilmots gets his managerial tactics right, then perhaps Belgium could repeat their feat of 1986 when they progressed to the semi-finals of football’s biggest tournament.