The World’s highest ranked team going into the Euros, expectations were sky-high for Belgium. They couldn’t have started in a more derogatory fashion than to lose to the so-claimed ‘worst Italy team ever’ to appear in a major competition. Yet, the Red Devils have recovered and kept three-subsequent clean sheets in games against Ireland, Sweden, and now, Hungary. The latest game featured everything that’s exciting about this Belgian team; exceptional individual talents, swift interchanges, and the occasional selfishness. However, with all that said, there is still doubt hanging over this team’s potential, as Hungary could confidently say that they were in the game up until the 60th minute. They shouldn’t have been.
Because they really weren’t.
The Belgians were the ones controlling the possession, dominating in the final third, but, they could not produce that reassuring goal due to the selfishness of the players going at it on their own. In all likelihood, they kept Hungary in the game by their own choice. And that could be a devastating choice to make come the quarters and the semis, when Wales and Poland/Portugal have arguably the best attacking players in all of Europe featuring up front.
If today’s opposition was Wales, for example (no disrespect to Hungary), then would it really be that great of an idea to let players like Ramsey pick out his passes and have Bale shoot on the same instances that Hungary shot the ball? Chances are, Belgium would have their work cut out for them in the closing stages of the game if that were to happen.
And the defensive effort put in by the attacking players of Belgium may be the worst we’ve seen from any team in this competition. Even Portugal’s Ronaldo was seen tracking back and making tackles in some of the side’s recent games, whereas Hazard, Lukaku, and De Bruyne enjoy their casual stroll back into position in almost every match.
Sides of the caliber of Germany and Spain will undoubtedly dominate possession for much of the game when they face this supremely talented team, and if the attacking players do not defend with purpose, they will be out of the game for good before they can launch a single counter-attack.
Question-marks still remain over the ‘leader’ of this Belgian team. With regular captain Vincent Kompany out for this tournament, there have been more than a few moments where players have lost their cool and gotten silly yellow cards. It is clear that Eden Hazard, however good of a player he may be, is not the vocal leader on the field. Though the captain’s armband nowadays seems to be just handed to a team’s best player, we still need to remember that the purpose of a leader on the field is to bring a team together and united to the same commitment. The ignition of passion and personality needs to reverberate from the captain. Hazard, if anything, seems more focused on reviving his performance levels to the best that he can be, but making no effort to bring out the best in everyone else alongside him.
Belgium are just going through the motions at this point. The potential of this team is yet to be fully achieved. However many goals they conjure up, the fact remains that this Belgium team is yet to conjure up a team performance.