After arriving at Euro 2016 with lofty expectation levels, Belgium’s supposed ‘Golden Generation’ of players failed to deliver upon their promise as they crashed out in the quarter-finals, following a stunning 3-1 defeat at the hands of Wales.
But since then, the team have looked rejuvenated. In a nutshell, qualification for Euro 2020 was plain sailing for Roberto Martínez’s charges. They plundered a whopping 40 goals, and amassed maximum points from their 10 games.
Martínez has full faith in his 3-4-3 system, and while there are lingering injury issues surrounding Kevin De Bruyne, as well as the form of Eden Hazard, Belgium could well be a tour de force this summer. In this guide, we will take a closer look at Belgium, and see how they are shaping up for Euro 2020.
At first glance, Group B shouldn’t pose too many problems for Belgium. They will be joined by Denmark, Russia, and Finland. Arguably, Russia could rival Belgium for top spot, and they have been in good form of late, losing just one of their past five matches. As part of their preparations, they faced Poland in a friendly, and they were held to a 1-1 draw. What they perhaps lack in natural talent, they more than make up for with their work rate. Denis Cheryshev, who plies his trade with Valencia, is perhaps their standout player, and Russia could be dark horses.
Denmark, meanwhile, have the most pedigree as they lifted the coveted European Championships in 1992, and that side contained Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel. His son Kasper has followed in his footsteps, and he could be kept a busy man in goal. There is plenty of bite in midfield, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg likely to screen the back four, while Christian Eriksen is a Serie A champion, having lifted the Scudetto with Inter Milan last term, and he is a dead-ball specialist.
By contrast, Finland will be taking their bow at Euro 2020, and little is expected of them. Although they won’t be at the European Championships purely to make up the numbers, Euro 2020 could be a baptism of fire for them. Nevertheless, Premier League fans will be familiar with Teemu Pukki, who will be returning to England’s top flight next summer after inspiring Norwich to a second Championship title in three seasons. Depending on how he performs, his price tag could soar, but he will be a focal point of the attack, and will require good service if Finland are going to stand a chance of making progress.
There are a few survivors from five years ago. However, De Bruyne is perhaps the first name on Martinez’s team sheet. The Manchester City midfielder enjoyed another exceptional campaign as he lifted the Premier League and Carabao Cup, and he was named the PFA Player of the Year for the second successive season.
After his side suffered Champions League heartache last month at the hands of Chelsea, De Bruyne is likely to sit out the first game after sustaining a facial injury following a hefty challenge by Antonio Rüdiger. While he doesn’t have much time to get up to speed, you won’t be able to take your eyes off him. He can thread eye-of-the-needle passes, and he is a sharp shooter.
From the outset, Belgium have relatively short Euro betting odds, and if De Bruyne is fully fit, then they will take some stopping.