HomeFootball NewsIs Euro 2024 the last chance of success for Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’?

Is Euro 2024 the last chance of success for Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’?

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Only 13 years ago Belgium was 57th in the FIFA world rankings, and by 2015 they were at the top. In tournaments gone by, taking into account the ability of their squad, Belgium has failed and has massively underachieved. But where has it gone wrong for them in the past, and is Euro 2024 the last chance for success for this crop of players?

For the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Belgium had a squad that consisted of Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku. Despite only reaching the last eight in Brazil, where they were beaten 1-0 by Lionel Messi’s Argentina, the squad that had been assembled was the first time Belgium had a real chance of footballing success.

In the 2016 European Championship, it was a real opportunity that got away for this Belgium side to win a major trophy. The Red Devils had stormed through to the quarter-finals after three wins in four, with eight goals scored and two conceded. But they were stunned by the surprise package of Wales, falling to a 3-1 defeat in France. It was such a disappointment that the manager at the time, Marc Wilmots, was sacked and replaced by Roberto Martinez.

The World Cup of 2018 in Russia was the first for manager Martinez. There is an argument this tournament was the best chance for Belgium, as several of the top players were at the top of their game. This time they were able to finally get past the quarter-final stage but were agonisingly beaten by eventual winners France, in a 1-0 semi-final loss. Yet another chance had gone for the ‘Golden Generation’.

It was the same story at Euro 2020, beaten by the eventual winners Italy but this time it was quarter-final heartbreak again for Belgium. No finals had yet been reached, but a huge step backward was about to hit at the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Maybe this was a sign that the ‘Golden Generation’ was destined never to be successful, as an embarrassing group stage exit followed. Even players like Kevin De Bruyne could not carry this team to glory.

It is a stretch to name this current Belgium squad the ‘Golden Generation’, with De Bruyne the only real superstar left in the squad. In December of last year, Eden Hazard announced his retirement from international football. There are also cracks in the Belgium squad, as was reported after the group stage exit in the World Cup last winter. But this was seen more recently as Thibaut Courtois left the camp for their Euro 2024 qualifiers due to being overlooked for the captaincy.

Qualification for the Euros next year in Germany is going well, with an unbeaten record after the first three games and with two wins and one draw. This is under the new manager Domenico Tedesco, who was previously the manager of RB Leipzig. The Italian coach was born in Italy but moved to Germany at the age of two. He won the German Cup with RB Leipzig in the 2021-22 season and reached the Europa League semi-final in the same season.

It is without a doubt that this upcoming Euros is Belgium’s last chance with what they have left of the ‘Golden Generation’. By the World Cup in 2026, De Bruyne will be 35 years old, and he would be the last remaining big talent in the Belgium side.

In previous tournaments, Belgium has not been able to perform in the biggest games. For the ‘Golden Generation’ it was possibly the pressure of success that held them back, but now perceived as perhaps weaker than in previous tournaments could a lack of expectation see Belgium perform better in the upcoming Euros in 2024?

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.

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