Belgium's Golden Generation Begins World Cup Qualifying on Friday

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 02:  Eden Hazard of Belgium in action during the international friendly match between England and Belgium at Wembley Stadium on June 2, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

There is one national team that many fans in Europe and all over the world are waiting to see qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup this weekend in Europe.

It is not the highly scrutinized English team.

It is not the Dutch, who look to recover from their Euro 2012 disappointment.

It is not even the two dominant sides in Europe, Spain and Germany.

It is Belgium.

Not many people outside of Europe would name Belgium as one of the newest football powers, but they have the players that can lead them to glory.

On Friday, some of the top young footballers in the world will take the pitch for Belgium when they travel to Cardiff to take on Wales in Group A of UEFA World Cup Qualifying.

Everyone knows about the main stars on the Belgian team.

Eden Hazard has been tearing up Premier League defenders from his first match at Chelsea and is the most recognizable face on this team.

Hazard, who was the most coveted player in the summer transfer window, has been flying up and down the wing and setting up his team mates with numerous scoring opportunities.

Also dominating the EPL so far this season is midfielder Marouane Fellaini. Ever since his move to Everton from Standard Liege in 2008, Fellaini has been a cult hero at Goodison Park and is finally reaching his full potential at Goodison Park.

The 24-year-old midfielder made his mark on the EPL season in the first match against Manchester United, where he caused United's defense trouble as he used his height as a major advantage.

Two players who should not be forgotten on this Belgium squad are defenders Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen. At age 26, both of these players are seen as the most experienced players of the so-called golden generation of Belgian football.

It may come as a shock to many but Kompany, at Manchester City, and Vermaelen, at Arsenal, are also club captains in the EPL and have been defensive stalwarts both in domestic and continental leagues.

Another pair of Belgians reside at Tottenham Hotspur as both defender Jan Vertonghen and midfielder Moussa Dembele made summer switches to the club.

Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne also call the Premier League their home alongside Hazard at Chelsea.

However, all three are out on loan at the moment.

With this young core playing in Europe's best domestic league, the question that needs to be raised about Belgium is are they for real or are just all hype. That question will be begun to be answered on Friday with the start of World Cup qualification.

The Belgians are in Group A with Wales, Scotland, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia.

To be even considered a golden generation, Belgium will have to qualify for the World Cup and it will not be an easy task. Croatia and Serbia will be the toughest opponents for Marc Wilmots' team in Group A play.

We will soon find out if the Belgians are for real, as two of their first three matches in Group A are against the two other group favorites.

After the road match against Wales on Friday, Croatia will come visit the King Badouin Stadium in Brussels on Tuesday.

On October 12th, the Belgians will visit Belgrade to take on Serbia. Those two matches will the benchmark for how far this team can actually go.

The highest expectation for the Belgians would be a full nine points from their first three matches, and the more realistic expectation would be six points.

Barring a major upset by the Welsh, Belgium should easily beat their opponents on Friday.

The home match with Croatia would be their best chance to win in the next two matches but a draw would be sufficient. Serbia are a difficult opponent to predict what will happen since the Serbs failed to qualify for Euro 2012 and have not won since February.

Belgium could easily walk into Belgrade and take three points, but could also easily not come away with anything in October.

As a true unknown quantity right now, we will know much more about Belgium after their first few matches in Group A.

One thing is for sure, Belgium will get a ton of attention throughout the upcoming years because of the massive amount of potential that they have on their roster.


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