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Belgium World Cup 2014: Team Guide for FIFA Tournament

Elko BornContributor IMay 21, 2014

Belgium World Cup 2014: Team Guide for FIFA Tournament

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    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    With a squad filled with some of Europe's most highly rated youngsters, the eyes of football fans from all over the globe will be fixed on the Red Devils during the World Cup in Brazil. Some people even reckon Belgium have a genuine shot at winning the tournament.

    The respect the Belgian team gathers these days has not always been there, and seeing as this is the first World Cup Belgium's golden generation will be participating in, fans can be sure the Red Devils will be looking to leave their definitive mark on football's biggest stage.

    With less than a month to go until the World Cup finally kicks off, we take a close look at the Red Devils and their road to the tournament. 

Road to the Finals

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    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    After winning eight games, drawing two and losing none, Belgium finished first in group A with a solid total of 26 points, ahead of Croatia—who finished second—and Serbia. 

    Belgium's best performance was arguably the Red Devils' away match against Serbia, which ended in 0-3. The Belgians' 1-1 draw against Wales was a minor disappointment.

    Belgium's solid run during the qualifiers will only strengthen the belief fans have in a successful tournament. 

Squad

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    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Koen Casteels (1899 Hoffenheim), Sammy Bossut (Zulte Waregem).

    Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur).

    Midfielders: Nacer Chadli (Tottenham Hotspur), Kevin De Bruyne (VfL Wolfsburg), Steven Defour (FC Porto), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Axel Witsel (Zenit Saint Petersburg).

    Attackers: Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Divock Origi (Lille).

    You can check out Bleacher Report’s Belgium squad guide here: Belgium Player-by-Player Guide

Manager Profile: Marc Wilmots

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    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    When the Belgian FA announced the appointment of former professional footballer Marc Wilmots as new Red Devils manager in 2012, nobody expected things to go as smoothly as they did. Judging by the Belgians' successful qualification campaign, however, Wilmots—who served as assistant manager under his predecessors Dick Advocaat and George Leekens—performed excellently. 

    Perhaps his background in politics—Wilmots was a politician in the Belgian senate for several years—helped him unite the Red Devils' diverse squad, perhaps it's simply his competence as a football manager. In any case, the Red Devils know they can trust their assertive leader ahead of the World Cup. The Belgian FA extended Wilmots' contract until 2018 in April for good reason. 

Star Man: Eden Hazard

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    Darko Bandic/Associated Press

    Belgium's squad packs a host of highly rated youngsters, but none of those youngsters have managed to get as far as Eden Hazard. 

    The skilful winger and attacking midfielder earned a move to Chelsea in 2012, breaking through and becoming a regular first-team starter and key man the year after.

    During the World Cup in Brazil, Hazard will undoubtedly be looking to make the next step in his progression by guiding Belgium to success in football's biggest tournament. 

One to Watch: Romelu Lukaku

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    Francois Walschaerts/Associated Press

    Only a couple of months ago, it seemed obvious Christian Benteke would be manager Marc Wilmots' first-choice striker during the World Cup in Brazil. But in early April, disaster struck. Benteke injured his achilles, and it was confirmed the striker would be out for about eight months.

    Step in Romelu Lukaku, who was immediately hailed as Benteke's replacement in the Rode Duivels' first XI. 

    Benteke, who has had 
    a good season on loan at Everton, will be desperate to prove his worth during the tournament, not only to Wilmots and the Belgian fans, but to Jose Mourinho as well. 

    The Chelsea manager, who has said he is looking for a new striker, has so far seemed to ignore Lukaku, even though he is still signed to the London-based club.

World Cup Record

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    Vincenzo Giaco/Associated Press

    Having only recently joined football's elite nations, Belgium's World Cup history is not full of glory. 

    The World Cup in 1986 is a notable exception. In Mexico, the Red Devils reached the semi-finals, which they eventually lost against Argentina—the team that would go on to win the tournament. 

    In 1990 Belgium lost against England after penalties during the round of 16, and during subsequent World Cups Belgium failed to reach the quarter-finals. 

    Most caps: Jan Ceulemans (96).

    Top scorer: Bernard Voorhoof and Paul van Himst (30 goals each).

    Youngest player ever: Fernand Nisot (16 years and 19 days).

    Current captain: Vincent Kompany

    FIFA ranking: 12th.

Group Fixtures

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    Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press

    Belgium vs. Algeria

    June 17, 2014 (1 p.m. local)—Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte

    Belgium vs. Russia

    June 22, 2014 (1 p.m. local)Estadio Jornalista Mario Filho, Rio De Janeiro

    South Korea vs. Belgium

    June 26, 2014 (5 p.m. local)Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo

    All data provided by FIFA.com

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