België / Belgique / Belgien / Belgium
- Capital: Brussels / Bruxelles / Brussel
- Official Languages: Dutch (Flemish), French (Walloon), German
- Nicknames: De Rode Duivels / Les Diables Rouges / Die Roten Teufel (The Red Devils – men’s team); Belgian Red Flames (women’s team)
- Association: Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) / Koninklijke Belgische Voetbalbond (KBVB) / Union royale belge des sociétés de football association (URBSFA) / Königlicher Belgischer Fußballverband (KBFV)
- FIFA Code: BEL
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Third Place (2018)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Men): Finalists (1980)
- Best Euros Result (Women): Group Stage (2017)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 1st (Various)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 17th (December 2019, December 2020)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 71st (June 2007)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 35th (November 2010, March 2011)
- Most Capped Player: Jan Vertonghen – 123 caps [as of Jan 2021]
- Top Scorer: Romelu Lukaku – 57 goals [as of Jan 2021]
The Kingdom of Belgium is situated in the northwest of the European mainland continent are currently considered the best team in the world as they are situated as the number one ranked team in the FIFA World Rankings list. Belgium’s history in international football is extensive and lengthy; being one of the first countries in mainland Europe to play football, as well as being one of the founding members of FIFA in 1904, and playing in the first three pre-war editions of the World Cup. Alas for the majority of their history the country has been somewhat overshadowed by the achievements of their neighbours, nonetheless, Belgium have been regular qualifiers for the World Cup throughout their history. Their first golden generation appeared in the 1980s when the Red Devils (named because of their red shirts) reached the final of the 1980 European Championships (losing 1-2 to West Germany) and then finished in fourth place in the 1986 World Cup.
However this past decade has provided Belgium’s second golden generation, with the country producing a vast array of exceptional talent playing at Europe’s top clubs, and even world-class talent in the cases of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois. Sadly with such a collection of talent, Belgium have been seen as having underperformed in recent tournaments despite having been labelled as favourites for winning tournaments. A disappointing quarter-final exit to Argentina in the 2014 World Cup was followed by another last eight defeat to Wales in the 2016 European Championships. They could (and perhaps should) have reached the 2018 World Cup final, but lost 0-1 to France in the semi-finals. However the Red Devils managed to achieved third place by beating England 2-0 and achieve their best-ever finish in the World Cup. They have subsequently qualified for the 2020/21 European Championships, and will be rightly considered as one of the favourites to win the tournament. However with many of their top-quality players coming towards the twilight of their careers, the time must be NOW if Belgium are to capitalise on this golden generation and finally achieve a trophy to (deservedly) step out from the shadows from their neighbours’ achievements…
Talking about the highest ranked side in the FIFA World Rankings (at the time of writing), and a side who are currently experiencing their ‘golden era’ in terms of world-class quality throughout their side, we interviewed The Belgian Football Podcast. Hosted by the trio of Ben Jackman, Scott Coyne and Joris Becq, they are an English-language podcast which regularly produces podcasts on everything going on in the Belgian First Division A (also known as the Belgian Pro League), as well as focuses on specific clubs, Belgian players abroad, and (of course) the national team. To find their podcasts and social media accounts, follow the links below:
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
I wasn’t born in the ‘80s so my choices (and answers to all other questions) will be very recent. The reason for that is that in the 1990s we went to a dark age, and the last championship we played got us our best result ever. That is, together with the attractive style of play and scoring plenty, why I choose Roberto Martínez as our best ever manager.
For the player, the same reasoning, but here I will go for Eden Hazard given his crucial role at the 2018 World Cup and consistently performing well for the national team. This might look a bit contradictory to the answer to question 3, but in my opinion it’s legit. 😀
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
Marouane Fellaini, I guess he has a cult status everywhere he played. For the reverse of it, I would refer to Daniel Van Buyten, the one player that played at a very good level at his club during his “dark period” in the nineties, but somehow always was the one making crucial mistakes at the national team. (Of course, at his clubs he had that at times as well, but there he had more decent games to make up for it.)
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Belgium currently?
In normal circumstances, it would go between Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, but the latter has had too many injury issues lately (otherwise I would have given him the edge, he will also be crucial if something is to be achieved ) so it will be De Bruyne. Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois aren’t bad either.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
The last sparks of the golden generation and it’s the time to win a trophy! In the future we’ll still have class players and not all of the current top performers will be retiring soon – but not all positions will have the same quality anymore, which will make it more difficult to really achieve something big.
Q. Are there any Belgian players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
There are plenty, luckily. Zinho Vanheusden [a 21 year-old centre-back playing for Standard Liège] at the back, Jeremy Doku [an 18 year-old winger at Stade Rennais] on the wings, and Charles De Ketelaere [a 19 year-old attacking midfielder playing for Club Brugge] on all attacking positions to name a few.
Q. Looking at Belgium’s long international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
This has to be the obvious answer: the win over Brazil in the quarter finals of 2018 World Cup. Beating a top team, especially at such stage, was something that did not happen until then. Even more so in combination with the round before, the scare we got from Japan until that beautiful counter-attack goal in injury time.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
The home game against Kazakhstan in 2006 during the qualification round for Euro 2008 has to be the clear winner of that contest. We started with 6 or 7 defensive-minded players and got a well-deserved 0-0 draw out of the game.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Belgian national team?
The best is clearly just the quality of the players on the field. The worst that we don’t really have a lot of chants and even go for non-native English as language that binds the supporters – and sometimes the players as well I suppose.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
‘Brazil‘ by the Vengaboys remains a fan favourite I guess, and it pains me to say this one as well:
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
No, we have not really got an iconic shirt, our shirts generally suck – the last few years it has bettered but still nothing special. Guess, again, if I really have to pick one I’d go for the 2018 World Cup ones.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Belgian national team?
Short-term, that Eden Hazard miraculously completely recovers and will finally lift a trophy in 6 months. On the longer term, that we will be able to replace the older generation with a lot of young talent and can maintain a top 10 position.
A massive veel dank / merci beaucoup / danke schön to The Belgian Football Podcast for answering our questions on The Red Devils. Remember you can find their social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.