How Belgium’s Golden Generation Truly Failed

Belgium star Kevin De Bruyne

Belgium’s World Cup campaign came to a disappointing end on Thursday evening as they were held to a goalless draw with 2018 runners-up Croatia, condemning the Belgian’s to 3rd spot in Group F and a place on the next plane home. This all but confirms the true failure of Belgium’s golden generation.

Belgium got their World Cup off to a decent start, beating Canada 1-0, who were participating in the tournament for the first time since 1986. Despite the result, the cracks were already beginning to appear as the Europeans were on the back-foot for much of the game. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois saved an Alphonso Davies’ penalty and picked up the Man of the Match award, such was the onslaught from the Canadians as they were evidently unlucky to walk away from the game empty-handed.

Belgian players celebrating with Thibaut Courtois after saving a penalty vs Canada
Belgian players celebrating with Thibaut Courtois after saving a penalty vs Canada

However, the preceding two fixtures is where the wheels really began to come off for Roberto Martinez’s side.

The second group game saw Belgium succumb to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Morocco, who ended up topping Group F with 7 points. The Red Devils (Belgium, not Man United) put in a dismal display against the African nation and effectively accepted elimination following the result.

Tempers were high after the clash, with a few Belgian players publicly criticizing the squad’s tactics and makeup, labelling the group ‘too old.’

Man City and Belgium superstar Kevin De Bruyne was the first to hit out at his team, claiming their chance for international success had passed.

“No chance, we’re too old,” said De Bruyne in an interview with The Guardian.

“I think our chance was 2018. We have a good team, but it is aging. We lost some key players. We have some good new players coming, but they are not at the level other players were in 2018. I see us more as outsiders.”

Belgium star Kevin De Bruyne
Belgium star Kevin De Bruyne

Former Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen was evidently annoyed by De Bruyne’s comments, hitting back at the current Premier League champion during his post-match interview after their defeat to Morocco.

“We probably also attack badly because we are too old, that must be it now, surely?

“We have a lot of quality up front, but so does Morocco, and they came out better. This is very frustrating.”

The drama didn’t stop there as the Daily Mail reported that Eden Hazard, Jan Vertonghen and Kevin De Bruyne were all engaged in a physical bust-up as tensions must’ve been high following the result. It was then said that current Inter striker Romelu Lukaku had to separate the trio after many of their teammates struggled to de-escalate the situation.

Despite reports of a team intervention after the Morocco game which allegedly had a positive outcome, Belgium’s fortunes did not change as they were held to a goalless draw with Croatia this evening, a result which eliminates them from the tournament.

After the game, Lukaku was pictured punching and breaking the dugout in frustration after Belgium’s all-time top scorer missed three sitters which would have sent his country to the Round of 16.

The result all but confirms the end of Belgium’s golden generation. Unfortunately for the nation, they do not have anything to show for it.

The Red Devils were ranked 2nd by FIFA prior to the World Cup, but rather surprisingly given the lack of silverware won by the nation. In fact, Belgium are the only nation to be top of the FIFA rankings to not have won a major international tournament.

Belgium will be disappointed that the current crop of players wasn’t able to achieve major success. Given the fact that many of their relied upon players are over the age of 30, it seems as if the opportunity for international success has passed.

The Belgian FA seems to echo the sentiments as it was revealed that manager Roberto Martinez was relieved of his duties following the result against Croatia.

A sad, disappointing end to a story that had so much potential.