Belgium are one of the favourites to win the 2020 European Championship 2020. With their golden generation of players, many believe, they can finally land a major trophy. After finishing the 2018 World Cup third, Belgium breezed through their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a perfect record of 10 wins - with 40 goals scored and only three conceded. That's some performance! (More Football News)
But that was more than a year ago before the tournament was pushed back by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. And things have changed since.
GROUP AND FIXTURES
Belgium are in B, along with Denmark, Finland and Russia. World's top-ranked team will play their matches in Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg and Parken Stadium, Copenhagen.
Roberto Martinez's men start their campaign with a fixture against Russia in Saint Petersburg on June 12, then take on Denmark on June 17 in Copenhagen and Finland on June 21 in Copenhagen.
If the Red Devils win the group, they face third-placed side from either Group A or D or E or F.
WHO TO WATCH
Belgium will start the competition with captain Eden Hazard struggling with form and confidence, the experienced Axel Witsel only recently back from a long absence, and Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne fracturing his nose and eye socket in the Champions League final loss to Chelsea. But they remain the players to watch out for, besides Romelu Lukaku and Youri Tielemans.
Hazard, who had surgery on his ankle last year and has been underachieving with Real Madrid since joining from Chelsea, has not played with the national team in 18 months. More recently,
following a forgettable display in the Champions League semifinals against his former club, he was mainly used as a substitute by then-Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane. Despite his poor showings, Martinez included Hazard in his 26-man squad for the tournament, hoping he will get his form back at the right time.
“I think the medical condition is the best moment Eden had for a long, long time," Martinez said. “The level of fitness is really satisfactory. And from that point we always look back on how important Eden Hazard is for the national team. He is our captain and the way that he performs in our environment is essential, and is vital."
Back in January, it seemed almost certain that Witsel would miss the tournament after undergoing surgery on an Achilles tendon injury. Martinez, however, made the most of UEFA’s decision to increase squad lists from 23 players to 26, including the Borussia Dortmund winger in his selection. Martinez hopes Witsel will be fully fit for the knockout phase of the tournament, even if he misses early matches.
Martinez took a similar risk with defender Vincent Kompany back in 2018, taking him to Russia even though he had not fully recovered from an injury. Kompany missed the start of the competition but featured in five of Belgium’s seven matches as the Red Devils advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion France.
Belgium has been placed in what appears to be a relatively easy group alongside Denmark, Russia and Finland and is expected to progress without too much trouble. With a solid defense and so many attacking riches at his disposal, Martinez can expect his experienced team to deliver.
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet, Matz Sels.
Defenders: Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen, Thomas Meunier, Jason Denayer, Dedryck Boyata, Leander Dendoncker, Timothy Castagne.
Midfielders: Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Nacer Chadli, Yannick Carrasco, Youri Tielemans, Thorgan Hazard, Dennis Praet, Hans Vanaken.
Forwards: Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke, Michy Batshuayi, Jeremy Doku, Leandro Trossard.