Few teams were hurt more by the year delay than Belgium were. Whilst some of England’s young stars could get another year of experience Belgium’s aging core had another year on the tyres.
This has been a golden generation since the 2014 World Cup but three tournaments have yielded just one semi-final spot for a ridiculous talented assortment of players.
Roberto Martinez has brought back Thierry Henry and mostly kept the faith with his core, but will it be enough?
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The Squad

There weren’t really too many surprises, this is pretty much the entire core that Martinez has used during his time in charge. The problem now of course is that they are close to or into their 30s.

Axel Witsel - Belgium

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Every name you’d expect to see you will see. The only two players who might have a case for being frustrated at being left out are Adnan Januzaj and Divock Origi. Although it’s not as if either have been pulling up trees at club level recently.

Manager

Roberto Martinez is taking charge of his third international tournament with Belgium and whilst it is clear they’ve made progress compared to where they were under Marc Wilmots, it hasn’t been good enough.
In the past a World Cup, a third-placed finish would be more than most Belgian fans would dream of asking for, but this crop is too special. Martinez has to reach the final, that is the minimum fans expect.

England's manager Gareth Southgate (L) greets Belgium's coach Roberto Martinez before the UEFA Nations League group A2 football match between England and Belgium at Wembley stadium in north London on October 11, 2020.

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Star Player

All Belgian fingers and toes will be crossed in the hope that Kevin De Bruyne is fit enough to play after his horrific collision with Antonio Rudiger in the Champions League final.
If he is fit then De Bruyne will take on a talismanic role with Belgium, even if Eden Hazard remains the captain.

De Bruyne

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There is also an argument for the role of Romelu Lukaku, after such an impressive season in Italy, but De Bruyne’s ability to conjure something about of nothing is key in tournament football.

Young star

This is an old squad. There are just two players below the age of 25. The youngster to watch is undoubtedly Jeremy Doku, the only teenager in the squad.
He joined Rennes from Anderlecht in the summer of 2020 for a club-record fee of €26 million plus bonuses. If you want to know what kind of player he is, this is the stat to know, no player in Europe’s top five leagues completed more successful dribbles than Doku’s 110. He is a special talent and is poised to take over the mantle from players like the Hazard brothers.

Lyon's Ivorian forward Maxwell Cornet (L) fights for the ball with Rennes' Belgian forward Jeremy Doku (C) and Lyon's Brazilian midfielder Lucas Paqueta during the French L1 football match between Stade Rennais Football Club and Olympique Lyonnais at the

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Surprise name

Christian Benteke showed something resembling his best form towards the end of this season so his inclusion can be explained. However the same cannot be said of Michy Batshuayi, who has struggled for both form and fitness during his loan spell, coincidentally at Benteke's Crystal Palace.
Perhaps Martinez is hoping that he can be the impact super-sub he has been in the past.

Michy Batshuayi (Belgique)

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Is it the same sentiment that sees a 35-year-old Thomas Vermaelen included? Despite the fact he’s playing in Japan. Martinez really is running it back.

Tactical style

At this stage it’s no secret how Martinez will have Belgium lining up. He will either use a 3-4-3 or a 3-4-2-1 depending on the situation. The two players behind Lukaku will rotate between playing as wingers and narrow 10s.
It’s a system similar to Borussia Dortmund, and Martinez can often use two of their players, Thorgan Hazard and Thomas Meunier as the wing-backs. They are the key to this system, if they get exposed Belgium’s back three becomes vulnerable but they can be absolute force if they get their roles right.

Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund)

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Tournament prediction

As mentioned at the top of the article, Belgium have to reach the final. But this is an old squad with a couple of huge key injury concerns.
They could have a relatively easy run to the semi-finals but if they get there it’s hard to see them getting much further.
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