HomeFootball NewsThe Individuals That Made Up Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’

The Individuals That Made Up Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’

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Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ has been one of the most-hyped teams on the international scene over the past ten years, even though they have failed to deliver the success that many predicted for them.

They have managed to reach zero finals in that time, having only gotten as far as the semi-final once in the 2018 World Cup. How has this generation of incredible talents fallen so short? Here’s a reminder of the big names involved and what they have achieved so far in their careers:

Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

Quite possibly the best midfielder in the world, Kevin De Bruyne has performed at the highest level for both club and country for the last 10 years. The Manchester City star was named captain of his country in March of this year after the retirement of Eden Hazard.

During his time at City, De Bruyne has won 15 trophies, but like all his Belgium teammates he is yet to win anything with his country. Currently sitting on 99 caps, the treble-winner has generally performed well at tournament level for his country.

He has scored two goals in 13 World Cup appearances and one goal in nine European Championship games and has been ever present in all tournaments for Belgium since the Brazil World Cup in 2014. But if the blame doesn’t lie with him, where does should it be placed?

Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea)

Lukaku is now back at Chelsea again after another season-long loan with Inter Milan, where they reached the final of the Champions League. He had a huge chance in the final where his header from a couple of yards out was saved by Ederson, a missed opportunity for glory that unfortunately increasingly sums up his career.

At both club and international level, the stats prove the former Manchester United forward has generally consistently scored goals. The last two seasons have seen the goals dry up, but three times in his career, he has been able to score 20-plus league goals. For his national team, his goal record is also impressive, scoring 75 goals in 108 caps.

This includes five goals in 12 World Cup appearances and six in 10 Euro games. However, beyond the stats lies the real story. He has only managed two goals in the knockout stages, these goals coming against the USA in the Round of 16 in the Brazil World Cup 2014 and when they took on Italy at Euro 2020 in a 2-1 Quarter-Final defeat. So, despite scoring plenty of goals, Lukaku has generally fallen short in games where Belgium needed him the most.

Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)

Alongside Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois has been one of the first names on the team sheet for Belgium for the last decade. The Real Madrid goalkeeper has played every single minute of every tournament since the 2014 World Cup, collecting 25 major tournament appearances and keeping 13 clean sheets.

Based on the stats it is clear like that the defensive structure of the team has not been the problem, but rather the fact Belgium hasn’t been able to score enough goals in knockout matches. In the last four games where they have been knocked out of tournaments, they have only scored two goals – against Wales in the 3-1 loss in 2016 and in the 2-1 defeat to Italy in Euro 2020.

Those are the players who are still a part of the Belgium squad, but here are some members of the Golden Generation who have moved on:

Eden Hazard (Free agent)

Former Belgium captain Eden Hazard has just had his contract at Real Madrid ‘mutually terminated’ after a nightmare four-year stay in Spain. At his peak for Chelsea, Hazard was one of the best wingers in world football. Now at the age of only 32, he is looking likely to be joining the MLS , drawing a close to his career in Europe.

The two-time Premier League champion last scored a goal for Belgium in a major competition against England in the 3rd place play-off game at the 2018 World Cup and only scored four goals in 23 appearances combined in both the Euros and World Cups – the other three coming against Hungary and Tunisia. It is clear to see, in terms of goals at least, Hazard did not show up for Belgium on the big occasions.

Vincent Kompany (Manager of Burnley)

Now the manager of Burnley, in his playing days, Kompany was one of the all-time great Premier League defenders. The colossal centre-half led Manchester City to 12 trophies (including four Premier League titles) and has already won the Championship as a manager. A downside to Kompany’s international career was how injury prone he was, missing a huge chance for Belgium to win silverware at Euro 2016 through injury.

Mousa Dembele (Retired)

After having a successful career in England for just under a decade, he couldn’t win any silverware despite a Champions League final appearance in 2019. The 35-year-old spent the last three years of his career in China, before retiring in January 2023.

Despite being seen as such a gifted player, he wasn’t a starter in any tournament he was selected for. The World Cup in 2014 saw two group-stage appearances and zero minutes in the two knockout games.

At Euro 2016 it was only one group-stage match for him, 57 minutes against Ireland. Then only one start in Russia 2018, a World Cup where they did reach the Semi-Finals. Unfortunately for Dembele, the likes of Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini were selected above him.

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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