While Belgium's senior side has consistently performed respectably at international level, the country's youth teams have yet to catch the eye on the world stage. That could all change at Korea 2007, however, as the Diablotins make their first appearance at a FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Not that coach Bob Browaeys is feeling the weight of expectation. Having already garnered a wealth of experience coaching in Belgium's national youth set-up, he feels certain that his young charges' time spent in Korea can only be beneficial, regardless of results.
Belgium may have lost out on penalties in the semi-finals of the UEFA European U-17 Championship 2007 to eventual winners Spain, but their achievements in securing automatic qualification for the world event wrote a new chapter in Belgian football history. "Honestly, we could have become European champions," Browaeys insists of May's competition on home soil. "But that doesn't matter now. I'm very happy just to be here."
Perhaps this is why Browaeys' aims for Korea 2007 do not seem overly high: "Our first priority is to gain match experience. For these lads, who will shortly be embarking on careers in the professional game, matches against top sides are valuable opportunities."
Nine of his young squad, including skipper Dimitri Daeseleire, are members of the youth team at Racing Genk, while star man and playmaker Eden Hazard, at French club Lille, is the only one currently plying his trade abroad.
"Our next aim is for the players to gain experience on the world stage via this tournament. The U-17 World Cup is the foundation for these players to play in the U-20 team, and eventually in the senior side," explains Browaeys, a former professional goalkeeper.
Having enjoyed spells with Belgium's U-15 and U-16 teams, before making the step up to his current U-17 role, Browaeys is certainly not lacking in experience. So, how does he plan to turn Belgium into a force in world youth football? "To be honest, our goal for this tournament is to show the world how much Belgian youth football has progressed in recent years," he underlines. "We want to play positive football, and are not too concerned about results."
While there may be an element of kidology in Browaeys low-key approach, a place in the Round of 16 is surely in the coach's sights as he prepares his charges for their Group E opener against Tunisia. "As we don't have much time, we are mainly focusing on tactical considerations. The domestic league in Belgium is still on its summer break and so it's important to raise our players' levels of match fitness," explains the 38-year-old youth coaching specialist. "Also, we are working on the mental side of things to prevent nerves getting the better of the players."
Captain Daeseleire, for his part, does not appear too concerned about anxiety overwhelming his fellow Diablotins. As the gifted right-back told FIFA.com: "The team spirit is very good. We've had no problems getting used to the time difference and every time we go for a jog in the morning we feel that our physical condition is tip-top. We don't know much about Tunisia, but we are preparing thoroughly."
All that is left now is for Browaeys' group of talented youngsters is to put their preparations into practice and show what they are capable of. If Daeseleire and Co. can reproduce their form from European qualifying, a successful start to Korea 2007 could well be on the cards...