Predicting a Route to World Cup Glory for Belgium
During previous World Cups, Belgium were never considered to be serious contenders. This time around, however, things are different.
With players like Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel in the squad, the "Rode Duivels" can now be seen as dark horses. Never before have Belgium looked like such a strong nation.
But what would their route to World Cup success look like? Would they have a relatively easy ride, in the beginning, or would it be difficult?
Here, we take a look at the opponents Belgium might have to face in their quest for glory.
With Algeria, Russia and South Korea as Belgium's opponents in the group stage of the tournament, it seems like the Rode Duivels have been handed a relatively easy group—at first sight at least.
Belgium's first match will be against Algeria. A victory should be possible there. A draw against Russia and a win against South Korea will then be enough to qualify for the second round.
With some luck, Belgium will be able to score a few goals and boost up confidence during the group stage. They might need it if they want to go all the way to the final.
Belgium 2-1 Algeria
Belgium 1-1 Russia
Belgium 2-0 South Korea
Portugal or Germany
Should Belgium qualify for the second round, they'll have to face whoever finishes first or second in group G. In all likelihood, that would mean they'd have to play Germany or Portugal.
It's difficult to predict which of these nations will top their group. Then again, the same can be said about Belgium, who could finish first or second.
But if the Rode Duivels want to win the World Cup, they better start winning soon. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, they'll finish first in group H, and that they'll face Portugal in the round of 16.
Belgium have sometimes been criticised for their lack of natural full-backs, but against Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, the defensive credentials of Toby Alderweireld—who is actually a centre-back—might come in handy.
Portugal would certainly be a formidable opponent for Belgium, but with a bit of luck, the Rode Duivels would stand a chance.
Belgium 2-1 Portugal
Clash with Argentina
Assuming France will top group E, Belgium will likely face the nation that will finish first in group F in the quarter-final.
That nation will probably be Argentina.
Regularly tipped as one of the favourites to win the World Cup, Argentina would certainly not be an easy opponent. The South Americans simply pack more quality and more experience than the Rode Duivels.
But all the praise and high expectations aside, Argentina have underperformed during recent World Cups. In Brazil, they might again fail to reach their peak.
Besides: If you can stop Ronaldo, beating Messi seems like the logical next step.
Belgium 1-1 Argentina
Spain in Semi-Final
A likely opponent in the semi-final of the tournament would be Spain, and like Argentina, the reigning world champions wouldn't be an easy opponent to beat for the Rode Duivels.
But every empire crumbles at one point, and even Spain, who have seemed like the strongest nation in football for years now, will eventually be knocked off the throne.
Belgium, with their squad full of youngsters who seem to be taking the world by storm, might just be the perfect team to do just that.
If Spain are the dominant generation of artists of modern football, then the Belgians form the avant-garde.
You have to beat the best to be the best, as they sometimes say...
Belgium 2-0 Spain
Belgium vs. Brazil
Almost unavoidably, Belgium would have to face host nation Brazil in an epic showdown in the World Cup final.
Under huge pressure to win the tournament, the doubtlessly eager Brazilians would almost look like a merciless end-game boss in an old-school video game.
Belgium would have to get the best out of their heroes to beat the Brazilians. But should they do it, eternal glory would await them.
Belgium 2-1 Brazil