2014 World Cup: Can EPL Stars Lift Belgium to World Cup History?
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The first three rounds of the 2012/2013 Barclay's Premiership campaign has been dominated by Belgium's "Golden Generation." Scouts and footballing experts have been warning of the day when Belgian football would arrive on the global scene and a look around the EPL seems to indicate that day has arrived.
The idea that Belgium could compete in the international arena may seem far-fetched when you consider that they have not qualified for a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.
But a quick glance at the stars of England's top Premier League teams should be more than enough to convince the most ardent of skeptics that the future of Belgian football needs to be taken seriously.
In Central London: Eden Hazard's mesmerizing talent has propelled Chelsea to the top of the table. With one goal and six assists in his first five games, the 21-year-old megastar is gaining comparisons to a young Cristiano Ronaldo.
In North London: New Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen has led an inexperienced defensive unit to three clean sheets in the Gunners' first three games. The physical and aggressive defender has earned plaudits from around the world with his leadership on and off the pitch and continues to lead a resilient Arsenal squad.
In Manchester: Vincent Kompany is building on his reputation as the best defender in the world from game to game. He is coming off a remarkable 2011/12 season where he captained Manchester City to their first title in 44 years and won the prestigious Premier League Player of the Season.
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In the Merseyside: Marouane Fellaini has been one of the stars of the young season with man of the match performances against Manchester United and Aston Villa. The highly rated midfielder arrived at Everton from Standard Liege in 2008 for ₤15 million after turning down advances from Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
These four players alone provide Belgium with a world-class foundation to build upon.
When you add Belgium's combination of established league players and young, burgeoning stars like Moussa Dembele, Daniel Van Buyten, Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke and Kevin Mirallas, you can start to see why many are preparing for an era of Belgian dominance.
Realistically, Belgium needs one or two proven goal-scoring aces up front before we can predict any sort of success in the international arena. But if Hazard can replicate his Chelsea form for Belgium, and Kompany and Vermaelen can anchor the defense, there is no reason to doubt that this team can surprise the world in 2014.
Belgium will begin the long road to Brazil against a hungry Wales team in Cardiff on Friday, September 7th.
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