Belgium has a storied World Cup history, but has never been able to win a World Cup title. A win against France would give Belgium the opportunity to do just that. Belgium has had a streaky history at the World Cup. The country did not qualify for the tournament from 1958 through 1966. Belgium’s 1970 appearance was the only one for that decade. They also missed out on the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, but entered the 2018 tournament coming off a quarterfinal run in 2014.
Belgium’s best run came in 1986 when they finished fourth. The 2018 team has no shortage of talent with numerous stars from the English Premier League. Many believe this could be the last run with the majority of this “Golden Generation” intact. Belgium manager Roberto Martinez explained to ESPN that the team will not play with fear, despite the team’s desire to make history.
Undoubtedly so. This group has to play with no fear at all. If we approach this match with fear within us, we will bring ourselves down and we’d be able to do so much less than what we can actually do. To play without fear would probably be the one thing which would help us the most…There are two very important phases. You must want to become a whole team from Day 1. I believe that, in order to win a championship, you must play, collectively, as a team. When we were able to achieve that, there was an interest from each player to put all individual interests aside.
This may be a Golden Generation with players like Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, but Martinez emphasized the growth in Belgium soccer for allowing this team to come together at the right time.
“It is important for everyone to understand that Belgium has a population of 11 million and that the current generation of players did not happen by accident,” Martinez told ESPN. “There is a very clear structure within professional football in Belgium…Belgium is a country focused on developing its young talent. We can only be ourselves and we already have time to use this World Cup as an advantage with the newest generations.”
Belgium added Thierry Henry to the staff, and Lukaku has emphasized how their relationship has helped his game.
“Man, listen — when we were kids, we couldn’t even afford to watch Thierry Henry on Match of the Day!” Lukaku wrote in The Players Tribune. “Now I’m learning from him every day with the national team. I’m standing with the legend, in the flesh, and he’s telling me all about how to run into space like he used to do. Thierry might be the only guy in the world who watches more football than me. We debate everything. We’re sitting around and having debates about German second division football.”
Henry is in a difficult position as he played for France, but is now on the Belgium coaching staff. France is the team that stands in the way of Belgium making their first appearance in the World Cup’s championship match.
Here’s a look at Belgium’s World Cup history.
Belgium’s World Cup History
|1990||Round of 16|
|1994||Round of 16|
|2002||Round of 16|
Source: Heavy Sports