Doha, Qatar – First of all, it must be said that it is not over yet belgium Can still make it to the last 16 of the World Cup with a win against Croatia on Thursday, but it still feels like something is off. Whatever happens for Belgium, it feels like the end of a cycle and with it, the end of their famous “Golden Generation”.
after their 2–0 defeat against MoroccoThe atmosphere inside and outside the team dressing room at the Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday was heavy – almost too heavy after a shock result, which came four days later after a lucky 1-0 win. Canada in which their CONCACAF opponents dominated. Protector jan vertonghen had just spoken on TV, only to reveal that he wouldn’t say what was on his mind. The 35-year-old centre-back did however have a thought. he hit back Kevin De Bruynewho told the world’s media that the team was “too old” and Captain Eden Hazardwho claimed that “our defenders are not the fastest and they know it,” before the match.
Vertonghen quickly replied: “I think we attack badly because we are too old up front. We didn’t create enough chances.” The dig was so obvious that you could imagine the mood in that dressing room and the impact of those words.
To explain the decline of the No. 2 men’s team in the world (according to the latest FIFA world rankings), Vertonghen begins with what he wanted to say. while the player denied any news of rift Within the team, there are clearly some problems on the pitch that are beyond its core.
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To name a few things: There is tension between some players in the squad, questions over why some were brought to Qatar (ie forward mitchie batsuyi And dris mertens) or in the starting XI (Hazard, axel witsel), questions over Roberto Martinez’s tactical options, fitness issues for key players (such as striker Romelu Lukaku) and the obvious disappointment from others such as the goalkeeper thibaut courtois (who smashed the edge of the bench with his fist on his way back to the tunnel) or De Bruyne.
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It has been suggested that the loyalty shown by Martinez to certain players is costing him and the team. Belgium have one of the oldest players in the tournament — their starting XI against Morocco had an average age of over 30 — so where is the young talent? The cracks appeared during a training camp in Kuwait before the team arrived in Doha, but problems have returned at Euro 2020, when they won and lost all three of their group games. portugal in the round of 16, only to lose to the eventual champions Italy In the quarter finals.
After the Moroccan defeat, only a handful of Belgian players – Vertonghen, Courtois, Hazard, amadou onana And timothy castagne — stopped in the mixed zone to talk to reporters and they can’t agree on what’s holding the team back.
Onana said that “there is no reason to worry, the only thing that was missing against Morocco were the goals.” For Castagne, on the other hand, it was far more negative. “We need to wake up. We haven’t seen the real Belgium yet,” said The leicester city Protector. Maybe we need to play a final, like against Croatia to kickstart our tournament.” [His point about a ‘final’ refers to the state of Group F: Belgium will definitely qualify with a win vs. Croatia, and will top the group if Morocco draw/lose. If they draw and Morocco win/draw, Belgium are out.]
Despite all their experienced players, there is a clear lack of leadership in this Belgian team. The injury to Lukaku, who played just 10 minutes against Morocco on Sunday, has come as a blow on and off the pitch. Hazard has been a great attacking leader but doesn’t need that kind of vocal presence, not least because his fitness level means he can barely play an hour before losing his impact on the game. De Bruyne is now believed to be the leader in his place, but the midfielder’s body language is not good and it is clear that he is frustrated. He conceded possession 28 times against Morocco – an incredible amount for a player of his skill and ability.
Former Belgium captain Vincent Kompany recently said on ESPN’s Gab & Jules Meet: “[De Bruyne] A plan is needed. Then, he will be the director and execute the plan to perfection with the players around him. He struggles to meaningfully engage with Hazard next to him, as the latter is at his best, or with thomas meunierJoe is an inferior option at wing-back down the right flank.
The big problem for Belgium is that if De Bruyne is absent there is no creativity elsewhere in the side and therefore, they present little threat in the attacking third. “We create almost no chances offensively, it’s not enough. We’re not creating anything up front. We were lucky to beat Canada and [on Sunday], We were not lucky. We deserved to lose,” Vertonghen said.
Eden Hazard speaks out on rumors about changing-room turmoil and reacts to Kevin De Bruyne’s comment that the Belgian team is “too old” to win the World Cup.
It also comes down to strategy. Martinez is out of contract after the World Cup and the mood right now seems to be everyone has accepted that this will be the end of his tenure, which began in 2016. The fact that they changed players or formation at half time in both group games. From a distance it appears that his initial strategy has been wrong. The Belgian is very flat and predictable when in position, while Martinez can’t make up his mind between a three- or four-man defensive shape.
Many players do not understand why Martínez persists with the back three, which requires three central defenders. They find it dated and not suited to the personnel Martinez brought to Qatar, especially with Alderweireld and Vertonghen in it. Belgium don’t even have real wing-backs, either – another requirement for that formation – especially on the left, so why does Martinez insist on moving players out of position?
Complicating any succession plan is the fact that Martinez is also the federation’s technical director, and any potential exit would leave two big holes to fill. However, if Belgium lose on Thursday, they will have no choice but to go. If they go out in the Round of 16 as well, they probably have to go, can they do it?
Asked directly about his future with Belgium, Martinez sidestepped the question, while sources told ESPN the federation would consider it after the World Cup. But right now, there is no plan B for the team going forward while no one knows what the forecast holds for their current set-up.
Prior to Sunday’s defeat, Belgium had not lost a World Cup group game since 1994, when they lost 1–0. Saudi Arab, It is a sad state of affairs for a nation which has produced some of the best individual players in the last 15 years. But how will his story end in Qatar? It is up to the players to rally and get a result against a strong Croatia team at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium on Thursday.