Everyone is getting very excited about the prospects for a Belgian side who promise to offer exciting football and a chance for punters to claim an outside bet at the 2014 World Cup. Since the previous tournament in South Africa four years ago, many of the squad’s players have been household names across Europe and together they combine to form a strong unit who breezed through their qualifying rounds.
Former International Marc Wilmots is in charge and he heads to Brazil with players of the calibre of Thibaut Courtois, Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany, Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku. Belgium are on offer at an industry best of 18/1 to win the World Cup but have their chances been hampered by the loss of Christian Benteke to injury?
Belgium kick off the World Cup in Group H and at first glance, the draw appears to have been kind to Wilmots and his men. Russia are the biggest threat after a strong qualifying campaign but even if Belgium should lose to Fabio Capello’s side, they are likely to come through in second place.
South Korea have proved to be difficult opponents in previous World Cups while Algeria are essentially there to make up the numbers and shouldn’t pose any problems for the stronger teams. Wilmots’ men should be comfortable qualifiers from this section.
The head coach has a number of options in a defence that stands ahead of Atletico Madrid’s on loan keeper Thibaut Courtois. Vincent Kompany is the national captain but it’s been a season of injury problems for the Manchester City star.
Tottenham’s an Vertonghen also finished his club campaign with an injury issue so Wilmots may have to rely on Toby Alderweireld who has barely played any competitive football for Atletico since leaving Ajax last summer. This is a strong area of Belgium’s game but fitness has to be a concern.
Belgium field a good mix of creativity with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard the key performer while Mousa Dembele helps to give the side a balanced, defensive edge. Axel Witsel has enjoyed a more productive season with Zenit St Petersburg while Everton’s Kevin Mirallas is another man whose campaign ended prematurely thanks to injury.
However, Kevin De Bruyne has benefited from leaving Chelsea and experiencing more game time with German side Wolfsburg and this midfield is among the best in the tournament.
The loss of Christian Benteke is an undoubted blow, particularly when you consider that Wilmots only chose two attackers in his most recent squad against the Ivory Coast. Benteke and Lukaku are the trusted front pair and among those looking to cover the two men is 18 year old PSV forward Zakaria Bakkali.
Wilmots may even choose to play Chelsea’s Lukaku as a lone striker and place Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini in more advanced positions. It is a real issue for the Head Coach and with a lack of experienced back up, it is the main problem for Belgium this summer.
Odds on Belgium to Win World Cup
A place in the knockouts is virtually assured and like all teams, Belgium need the draws to be kind to them if they are to progress any further. If you aren’t tempted by the outright odds at 14/1, William Hill are offering 7/1 on Belgium reaching the finals. If Benteke had been fit, we would have advised backing a semi-final berth at 3/1 but Wilmots just hasn’t been able to use a back-up striker in recent internationals and a lack of experience means that for all their promise, a last eight finish may be all that Belgium can hope for.