Belgium enjoyed a run of six consecutive FIFA World Cup™ appearances until they missed out on Germany 2006, and they were unable to bounce back four years later. In fact, the Red Devils have failed to reach a major international tournament since 2002, their efforts hampered by a lack of consistency and an inability to get the most out of undeniably promising young talents. In 2006, they finished fourth in Group 7 and ten points shy of leaders Serbia and Montenegro, with only San Marino having conceded more goals along the way. They were then deprived a place at South Africa 2010 following home-and-away defeats by Bosnia-Herzegovina and a loss in Armenia.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Founding members of FIFA, Belgium have taken part in 11 FIFA World Cup final tournaments and were an ever-present force between 1982 and 2002. In 1998, the side coached by Georges Leekens in his first spell at the helm came third in their group and made an early exit, while in 2002 Robert Waseige’s men fell in the last 16 to eventual winners Brazil. Neither of those teams came anywhere close to matching the generation that sparkled during Mexico 1986, when they reached the semi-finals before succumbing to Argentina.
The current crop
Coaches have come and gone in recent years without being able to get Belgium’s gifted individuals to click. The potential is clearly there, but the results have yet to follow, and the Red Devils will need to integrate their exciting young players alongside veterans such as Daniel van Buyten and Timmy Simons if they are to return to the global stage in Brazil.
The key players
On paper, Belgium can call upon an armada of stars, all plying their trade in Europe’s most prestigious championships. The depth of their talent pool is striking, with Nacer Chadli threatening to eclipse crowd favourite Eden Hazard before the latter has approached anything near his peak. Romelu Lukaku, Jelle Vossen and Toby Alderweireld are the latest stars to emerge, while the likes of Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini and Steven Defour have already established themselves as senior figures.
Coach: Marc Wilmots (temporary)
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup Mexico 1986 (Fourth place), Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Antwerp 1920 (Winners)
Former stars: Enzo Scifo, Jean-Marie Pfaff, Marc Wilmots