Belgium World Cup squad guide: Full fixtures, group, ones to watch, odds and more

PROFILE: With the tournament only days away we take an in-depth look at all 32 teams in Russia

Liam Twomey
Sunday 10 June 2018 12:33 BST
2018 Russia World Cup in numbers

Roberto Martinez has a huge responsibility this summer, leading Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ into a World Cup that many believe they have all the tools to win.

Disappointing showings under Marc Wilmots in Brazil four years ago and at Euro 2016 have ramped up the pressure on this year’s star-studded squad, while Martinez has also made a bold call by leaving Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan out of his 23-man selection. If Belgium fail again, there will be no shortage of blame to go around.

The good news is that Belgium’s top talent has never been better. Kevin De Bruyne has blossomed into arguably the world’s best playmaker at Manchester City, while captain Eden Hazard was at his devastating best for Chelsea in last month’s FA Cup final. Between them, Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku and Napoli false nine Dries Mertens should provide plenty of firepower.

Doubts remain over the fitness of Vincent Kompany and Michy Batshuayi, and Martinez still has questions to answer about his ability as a defensive coach. Experience and mentality, however, are likely to be Belgium’s biggest obstacles to glory in Russia.


Belgium vs Panama – 16:00, Monday 18 June
Belgium vs Tunisia – 13:00, Saturday 23 June
Belgium vs England – 19:00, Thursday 28 June

Key players

Eden Hazard: A disrupted and disappointing season yielded the second-worst goal tally of Hazard’s career at Chelsea, but he showed ominous signs of life in the final stretch of the campaign. His ability to commit defenders, force mistakes and create for himself or others will be particularly crucial against the massed defences Belgium are likely to face in the group stage.

De Bruyne heads into the World Cup in the form of his life
De Bruyne heads into the World Cup in the form of his life (AFP/Getty Images)

Kevin De Bruyne: Unlucky to be pipped by Mohamed Salah in the race for English football’s top individual honours this season, De Bruyne goes into the World Cup as a Premier League champion and in the form of his life. He sees passes that do not even occur to most other players and when his game clicks into top gear, no defence can stop him.

Jan Vertonghen: Kompany’s fitness issues, coupled with Martinez’s decision to name only six natural defenders in his World Cup squad, ensure that Vertonghen’s steadying influence at the back will be all the more vital. He is mobile and versatile enough to shift to the left if Yannick Ferreira Carrasco proves too much of a liability, and his understanding with Tottenham teammate Toby Alderweireld is also a plus.

One to watch

Thorgan Hazard: Forever in the shadow of his older brother Eden, Thorgan has built an impressive career for himself since signing permanently for Borussia Monchengladbach from Chelsea in 2015. He registered 10 goals and five assists in the Bundesliga last season, and his intelligent movement and eye for goal can offer Belgium a valuable threat off the bench in Russia.

How did they get here?

Belgium could scarcely have been more convincing in qualifying, winning nine of 10 matches, conceding just six goals and emerging unbeaten at the top of a lopsided group featuring Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Cyprus and Gibraltar. Lukaku scored 11 of their 43 goals, while Hazard registered six goals and five assists.

The only draw came at home to Greece, with Martinez’s men held to a 0-0 despite out-shooting their defensive-minded opponents 17 to two.

How will they do?

There is no reason why Belgium should not finish top of Group G ahead of England and, depending on the results of their first two games against Panama and Tunisia, they may not even need to beat Gareth Southgate’s men to secure top spot.

A potential round of 16 tie against the runners up of a relatively weak Group H should provide no problems. The true test is likely to arrive in the form of a blockbuster quarter-final against Brazil. Win that, and this Belgium generation will have finally arrived at a major tournament. Anything less will be seen as another missed opportunity.

Odds of winning the tournament: 11/1

Full squad

Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels, Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet.

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Meunier, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen.

Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco, Kevin de Bruyne, Mousa Dembele, Leander Dendoncker, Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard, Adnan Januzaj, Dries Mertens, Youri Tielemans, Axel Witsel.

Forwards: Michy Batshuayi, Nacer Chadli, Romelu Lukaku.

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