World Cup 2014: Why We Should Be Wary of the Belgium 'Golden Generation'

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World Cup 2014: Why We Should Be Wary of the Belgium 'Golden Generation'
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

We should be wary of the term "Golden Generation."

Football has seen many of them come and go throughout history, with varying amounts of success—and failure.

Two squads from the last 15 years act as good examples—from both ends of the spectrum.

The French national side reaped the rewards of a pioneering youth development system, which included the ground-breaking facility of Clairefontaine, to claim the 1998 World Cup on home soil.

Fresh faces such as Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira were joined by the colossal Laurent Blanc, the inspirational Didier Deschamps and the puppet-master himself, Zinedine Zidane.

A few years later, England were touted as having a "Golden Generation" of their own. However, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and company failed to live up to the hype, with quarterfinal exits in Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup—not to mention their failure to even qualify for Euro 2008.

Though the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 may have come too soon for the Belgians, they have a fantastic chance of qualifying for Brazil in 2014.

This, indeed, is their "Golden Generation."

Not for 30 years have Belgium seen such promise in their athletes. The Belgians’ fourth-place finish in the 1986 World Cup and runners-up medal in the 1980 European Championships are the anomalies in an otherwise uninspiring history.

Indeed, those impressive finishes were thanks to the team’s respective stars stepping forward on the biggest stage—namely Enzo Scifo and Jan Ceulemans.

The same will be required of the stars of 2014.

Placed in Group One for UEFA World Cup qualification, their task is tough but certainly not unachievable.

Croatia and Serbia will prove their most dangerous opponents,  although Scotland—hard to beat under Craig Levein—will also fancy their chances of finishing in the top two.

All will need to be stopped.

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After being handed the Belgium captaincy at the expense of Thomas Vermaelen, Vincent Kompany’s leadership qualities have now been fully recognised by the national team set-up.

Kompany has been talismanic for his club this season, helping propel Manchester City to the summit of the Premier League with a number of warrior-like performances.

Without his presence, City's back line has looked flimsy and easily penetrable.

At the moment, one would be hard-pressed to find a defender anywhere in the world who is as in-form as the ex-Hamburg man. He will need to continue that form into the qualifying campaign to help a side which shipped goals all too easily during qualification for Euro 2012.

Going forward though, Belgium have an abundance of riches. Moussa Dembele is arguably one of the most underrated players in the English Premier League, while the potential of both Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku caught the eye of Chelsea, who snapped up the pair.

The star man though is undoubtedly Lille’s Eden Hazard.

Linked with every elite club under the sun in the last 18 months, the tricky winger has the ability to leave sluggish full-backs languishing and win games on his own.

Belgium play England in a friendly at Wembley in June.

With the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and others—who have failed to live up to their promise but are still in and around the squad—perhaps it will be like Belgium playing their future selves.

The 2014 World Cup is far from the last chance for this talented set of players to prove their potential.

But, like England’s "Golden Generation" of the mid-noughties, will this Belgium team look back scornfully on what might have been? 

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