Dries Mertens is ready for his last FIFA World Cup with Belgium
The 34-year-old has 21 international goals to his name
Can he and the Red Devils go all the way?
Dries Mertens is as important to Belgium as he is to Napoli, a key weapon that Roberto Martinez can use both from the start or off the bench. In recent years, his contribution to the national team has been impressive, especially at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
Belgium were stopped in the semi-finals, but they showed that they can compete at the highest level, beating 2-0 England in the play-off for third place.
Last chance for gold
Belgium undoubtedly boast some of the best players in their positions on the planet, but could this be their last shot at World Cup glory? Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard will both be 31 at Qatar 2022, while Thibaut Courtois and Romelu Lukaku will be 30 and 29 respectively. For Mertens, who will turn 35 in May, this will surely be his last participation in the competition. Having reached 100 caps during UEFA EURO 2020 and thrived for the Red Devils in big games, he will be determined to bow out in style.
Mertens will also have extra motivation in Qatar: his son Ciro Romeo Mertens was born a few days ago. The Napoli man has two World Cup goals to his name: the first against Algeria in 2014, and the second against Panama in 2018. Both came in the group stage.
Roberto Martinez emphasized his importance almost a year ago.
"Sometimes we forget the work he does without the ball, his way of playing," said the Belgium coach. "[He] Communicates with others to read situations. The work of No10s is very difficult, you always must figure out who to mark in each situation. And Mertens does great work in that part of the field.
"We are talking about a player who must always be able to create but you can also count on his tactical intelligence. He always understands what the best way is to make a difference, he is always concentrated to the maximum."
Belgium will play Canada, Morocco and Croatia in Group F at Qatar 2022. Can Mertens and their golden generation realise their potential and lift the trophy?