Belgium vs Algeria match preview: The wait is over for tournament's dark horses
It's time to deliver for Marc Wilmots and Belgium's golden generation
Tuesday 17 June 2014
After all the waiting, and all the wonder about how good Belgium are, the world will finally get to properly see. A genuinely talented generation of players will have their first experience of a tournament, the country will participate in Fifa’s main event for the first time since 2002.
In fact, this fixture against Algeria falls on the exact anniversary of their second-round elimination to Brazil in Japan 12 years ago.
Manager Marc Wilmots actually played in that game, but also provokes one of the deepest questions about whether this current squad can go further.
There remains some suspicion about the 45-year-old’s leadership, and a feeling that he is perhaps not maximising the team’s ability in the way he might. Similarly, it’s a little difficult to know how to read recent form, given that the majority of their best results haven’t exactly been against behemoths.
It all adds to an odd mood of uncertainty about them, which feeds into the backlash that every supposed dark horse faces in the build-up. After months in which they are so heavily backed, a backlash is inevitable.
The irony is that, in terms of individual players, Belgium are probably better known to British audiences than any other team. They have 12 Premier League players in their squad, which is more than any other World Cup qualifier except England.
The only problem is that some of the most prominent of those players only add to the questions. Eden Hazard is the prime example, almost suffering from the same issue a young Lionel Messi did in international football. As brilliant as he’s been for Chelsea, one lasting debate has been that he’s never performed to the same level for Belgium.
This would be as fine a stage as any to dismiss that. There shouldn’t be too much dismissal of Algeria either. Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic has fashioned a progressive side, who may surprise people.
Belgium will hope to live up to expectations. Today we’ll see how fair they were.
New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain
By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen
New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning
Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy
Latest in Sport
Manchester City vs Manchester United combined XI: No place for Yaya Toure... or any United defenders
Sami Khedira transfer news: Arsenal can win the Premier League if they sign Khedira in January, says Perry Groves
Paul Scholes: At last! Some credit for Sam Allardyce
EXCLUSIVE: F1 heading for eastern revolution as new team emerges from Romania
Impressive Kurt Zouma may save Chelsea millions by replacing John Terry
- 1 'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
- 2 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 3 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 4 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
- 5 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party