Belgium’s Golden Generation On The Verge Of An Early Exit: FIFA WC 2022

Belgium’s Golden Generation On The Verge Of An Early Exit: FIFA WC 2022

As the passionate Moroccan fans rocked the Al Thumama Stadium in fine voice, a lethargic Belgium collapsed at the feet of an impressive display by Morocco. Belgium supporters were left shellshocked by the poor performance of their once heralded side.

The Atlas Lions almost took the lead in extra time of the first half, with a goal by Romain Saiss disallowed by a very tight offside call. Although the Red Devils commanded the bulk of the possession, they were wasteful, converting none of the 10 shots created, with an accuracy rate of only 30%.

Walid Regrarui’s Morocco were comfortable letting Belgium shuttle the ball around. They were extremely clinical and penetrative on the counter, relying on star-man Hakim Ziyech, who put up a scintillating performance, calling for Chelsea fans to stand up and take notice after being left on the fringes by new Blues manager Graham Potter.

A beautifully taken free kick by Abdelhamid Sabiri, followed by a smooth counterattack finished by Zakaria Aboukhlal stamped out Belgium’s chances of mounting a comeback, leaving them in a precarious position.

How then, did such a talented team, touted to be the “golden generation” of Belgium collapse in such pitiful circumstances? The Red Devils ranked 1st in the FIFA Men’s Rankings a mere 9 months ago have dropped a long way from their prime.

Now on the brink of experiencing an early exit from this year’s World Cup, it is not just how far they’ve fallen, but how lacklustre & woeful they are at their prime that has surprised millions of football fans worldwide. In fact, Belgium were the only team to top the FIFA rankings without having won a World Cup or a continental trophy.

Once touted as one of the best players in the Premier League, Eden Hazard is now incredibly below par & underwhelming. Apart from a few moments of skill and his natural dribbling prowess, his performances are now a shadow of the mercurial skill he showed during his time at Chelsea.

Even Thibaut Courtois, still very much in his prime, was terribly unconvincing against the Moroccans. He let in two goals from wide free-kicks, although one was adjudged to be offside. Such a performance is not something you would expect from a goalkeeper in the conversation for the Ballon d’Or.

The team as a whole were disappointing and with an average lineup age of 30.5 years old, it wouldn’t be extreme to predict further regression from this Belgium side.

Such criticisms are not only held by fans, but even the individual players in the Belgian team, with Kevin De Bruyne stating “No chance, we’re too old. I think our chance was 2018. We have a good team, but it is aging.”

This clearly highlights a lack of belief by certain individuals in the squad, especially coming from City’s star performer for the good part of the last five seasons in De Bruyne and the team spirit is being impacted by these mindsets. Jan Vertonghen, a member of the old guard, fired back at De Bruyne’s comments, saying “I guess we attack badly because we are also too old up front”.

Another incident in the Canada match highlighted the gravity of the situation. Even after Michy Batshuayi scored the opening goal, De Bruyne was seen speaking to coach Roberto Martinez, instead of celebrating with the team. He even waved Toby Alderweireld away when he walked over to intervene.

There is clearly a problem regarding team cohesion. It is up to Roberto Martinez and the leaders in the squad to reinvigorate and revitalize this aging Belgium squad to ignite a late attempt to qualify for the round of 16, which seems like an uphill task ahead of the final group game.

In other news, Moroccan fans have began rioting in the streets of Belgium and Amsterdam, where there are large communities of Moroccan immigrants. Instead of celebrating their team’s win, Moroccan internationals proceeded to smash shop windows, throw fireworks, set vehicles alight, and pelt cars with bricks. In Liege, a gang of 50 Moroccan supporters even initiated an assault on a police station, wreaking havoc.

“These are not fans, these are rioters,” said Philippe Close, Brussels’ Mayor. Indeed such actions are condemnable and should not be the actions of fans celebrating their nation’s win at a World Cup. It remains to be seen how Morocco reacts to these acts of violence by their citizens and whether they impose sanctions.

We’ll have to see how Belgium play against group leaders Croatia, in their must-win tie and whether they will be able to secure their place in the round of 16. Morocco are now only 1 point away from securing their spot in the knockout stages and this upset against Belgium is only just a taste of what is to come from this youthful, energetic African side.

But for Belgium, their ‘golden generation’ is slowly fading out into obscurity.

Also read: Iran vs USA – A Battle Beyond Football: FIFA WC 2022

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