Belgium will have its best chances of winning its first major title and confirming its place at the top of the FIFA rankings when the European Championship, “Euro 2020”, begins next month.
Coach Roberto Martinez has an impressive array of talent when Belgium begins their campaign in Group Two, as they are expected to overtake Denmark, Finland and Russia and become the team that everyone prefers to avoid in the knockout rounds.
And only a handful of the 24 teams that participate in the tournament have a star-studded squad like Belgium.
Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois are world stars, and Romelu Lukaku’s goals this season helped Inter Milan win the Italian League and cemented his top scorer for the Belgian national team throughout the ages with 59 goals.
The rest of the team is a mixture of great experience and promising talent.
Captain Jan Vertonghen, 34, has played 126 international matches, midfielder Axel Witzel has played 110 international matches, and Napoli striker Dries Mertens has played 96 international matches.
While Yuri Tillmans, 24, scorer for Leicester City’s FA Cup victory, is one of the team’s pillars in the future.
Despite his brilliance with Leicester City this season, Tilmans does not guarantee his place in the Belgium starting line-up, which is the same in some places in a team that won all 10 matches in the tournament’s qualifiers and scored 40 goals to become the strongest attacking line.
Belgium has an additional incentive after its bitter loss in the World Cup semi-final 3 years ago, when it felt that it had missed the opportunity to write glory and settled for third place in Russia.
“One of the goals after the World Cup was to grow and create a bigger squad and rely on more than one player in each position,” Martinez said.
Martinez feels he has done so and that the team is better after 3 years, but he cautions that winning the European Championship is not certain.
“It is a bit strange tournament because despite our being in the first classification in our group, we have no advantage. Never in the history of the European Championship or the World Cup has any team played at the stadium of two other teams,” he added.
Belgium will start its campaign against Russia in St. Petersburg on June 12, before traveling to play against Denmark in Copenhagen on June 17, before concluding its matches against Finland in St. Petersburg.
But if Martinez is worried, he will be on the field as De Bruyne gets more time to rest after the Champions League final with Manchester City on May 29.
Fitzel joined the 26-man squad on an adventure after a long absence due to a severed Achilles tendon as Hazard needs to recover after a disastrous season full of injuries with Real Madrid.