Were expectations met?
After an absence of 12 years from a major tournament, Belgium restored their name in international football by winning their group and going on the quarter-finals on their return. Belgium won their first four games in Brazil until Argentina, and Lionel Messi, finally stopped them. In the past the national team and the press have often been divided into Wallon and Flemish parts but Marc Wilmots managed to create a unity in and outside the team this time around.
What the media say
Het Laatste Nieuws: "It was nice, and it will become more beautiful. At the next Euro and World Cup we will not be outsiders anymore. This tournament we will just take with us as experience in our luggage. This generation will be capable of writing history at Euro 2016."
Het Nieuwsblad: "Too few players performed on the top level that is necessary in this phase (quarter-finals) of the tournament. The World Cup was nice but not a total success. Therefore, things should have been a bit better against Argentina."
What they say
Marc Wilmots: "Before the tournament no-one had thought we would come this far, but we still are not satisfied. Today and over the whole tournament we have learned a lot and that experience we will take with us towards the future. Details make the difference, and that is what football is about. I do not want a parade through Brussels and neither do the players as we are not champions, but we do want to give something back to the fans."
Axel Witsel: "With this generation we can be really ready for the next tournaments. At Euro 2016 we want to push through to the top."
Belgium's meeting with Argentina in the quarter-finals brought back memories of the 1986 World Cup, where they were beaten by Maradona's Argentina in the semi-finals. The whole nation got Red Devils fever, with all squares being filled with crowds dressed in red and watching the matches together on big screens.
What is described as Belgian's golden generation, with players like Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, only to name a few, were one of three teams to reach the quarter-finals by winning all four of their games. With players playing in the top European competitions combined with the World Cup experience, more is to be expected from Belgium in upcoming major tournaments.
Room for improvement
"We lacked the experience of playing at major tournaments and that is what you noticed against Argentina," said Kevin Mirallas. "But we do take experience with us from this and we had a lot of pleasure at this World Cup." Belgium could also improve on being more dominant in games, which they did show in the match against the United States, and more leadership should be shown from players like Vincent Kompany and Eden Hazard on future occasions.
Divock Origi seems to be the player to look for in the near future. The LOSC Lille forward became the youngest player to have started a World Cup quarter-final since Pele in 1958, being 19 years and 78 days old. The forward seems to have it all – explosive and fast, including accelerating from a standing start, technically strong and able to pass by defenders with his excellent dribbling. The two-footed player only became a regular at Lille in the second half of the last season but made rapid development, and the World Cup experience only will add to that.
Qualification for UEFA EURO 2016 starts on 9 September with a tricky trip to Israel but, should Belgium negotiate that assignment, they will be confident of reaching the finals and making the impact that so many expect them to. Fellow World Cup participants Bosnia and Herzegovina will also provide stiff opposition with Cyprus, Wales and Andorra completing their qualifying group.
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