Belgium have announced a provisional 24-man squad and six standbys for this summer's World Cup in Brazil which includes Premier League stars Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany as well as Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj.
The 19-year-old Januzaj only officially decided to declare himself for Belgium at the end of last month, having previously been eligible for other countries including England.
Many people's tip as a "dark horse" to go far in this summer's competition, Belgium's squad is most certainly a strong one, including the likes of Atletico Madrid's star goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois as well as an array of attacking talent.
They cruised through qualifying with an undefeated record of eight wins and two draws in a group that included the likes of Croatia and Serbia.
Let's take a look at the the squad that Belgium manager Marc Wilmots announced on Tuesday, per Craig Hope of the Daily Mail:
|Belgium World Cup Squad|
|GK||Thibaut Courtois||Atletico Madrid/Chelsea|
|DEF||Toby Alderweireld||Atletico Madrid|
|DEF||Anthony Vanden Borre||Anderlecht|
|DEF||Laurent Ciman||Standard Liege|
|DEF||Vincent Kompany||Manchester City|
|DEF||Daniel Van Buyten||Bayern Munich|
|DEF||Nicolas Lombaerts||Zenit St Petersburg|
|MID||Axel Witsel||Zenit St Petersburg|
|MID||Marouane Fellaini||Manchester United|
|MID||Kevin De Bruyne||Wolfsburg|
|MID||Adnan Januzaj||Manchester United|
|DEF||Jelle van Damme||Standard Liege|
|ATT||Thorgan Hazard||Zulte Waregem/Chelsea|
|ATT||Michy Batshuayi||Standard Liege|
Starting XI Projection
GK: Thibaut Courtois
RB: Toby Alderweireld
CB: Vincent Kompany
CB: Jan Vertonghen
LB: Thomas Vermaelen
CM: Axel Witsel
RM: Dries Mertens
LM: Eden Hazard
AM: Moussa Dembele
ST: Romelu Lukaku
Apart from Januzaj's inclusion, which came perhaps at the expense of Thorgan Hazard, the only other real surprise is the inclusion of Divock Origi, Lille's 19-year-old striker who has been one of Ligue 1's young stars this season, per Opta:
He has never played for the senior Belgian team and has only one cap for the U-21 side, so his inclusion comes as something of a headline-grabber.
The two youngsters are likely to be going along merely for the experience, although Wilmots will take time to assess their progress before whittling his squad down to a final 23.
He has included four goalkeepers in his provisional squad, so the 23-man final cut will simply be without either Koen Casteels or Silvio Proto.
There is little doubt that Belgium's starting XI is one of the strongest in the tournament, certainly of the European teams.
Courtois has been an absolute colossus for Atletico in what has been a stunning season for the Madrid side. In the next couple of weeks they could claim both the La Liga crown and the Champions League, and much of that success is down to their solidity at the back.
Atletico have conceded only 25 goals in the Spanish league this season, the fewest in the division, per ESPN FC. Courtois' influence cannot be overplayed.
In front of him, the Belgium defence has a Premier League feel about it but is also loaded with centre-backs.
Many of the defenders included in the squad play in the middle of the back four, which could prove an issue when it comes to Belgium's width.
Alderweireld and Vermaelen are both capable on the flanks but may not provide the attacking intent which an out-and-out left- or right-back might.
In Eden Hazard they have probably their biggest star, a player capable of producing moments of magic who should link up well with Romelu Lukaku playing up top.
Between them they bagged 29 goals in the English top flight this season, per BBC Sport.
Belgium's weakest link is probably Marouane Fellaini, who has been very disappointing in his first season as a Manchester United player. As a distributor of the ball he has work to do, which will cause Belgium problems in terms of keeping possession.
However, this is probably the best line-up Belgium have ever sent to a World Cup, and the quality of their players is certainly adequate to see them to the last eight or the last four.
If they can handle the pressure of the occasion—and they have many experienced players in their side—they could certainly cause some upsets in Brazil.
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