How they qualified
Having looked to be building towards something special for a number of years, Belgium finally made the breakthrough many expected, with a golden generation seemingly capable of challenging the best. Les Diables Rouges (Red Devils) proved that on the road to Brazil 2014, topping Group A ahead of the likes of Croatia, Serbia and Scotland after an almost faultless campaign. The Belgians only dropped points in an early draw against Croatia and a second stalemate in their final outing, when their finals place was already assured. They sealed their progress in their penultimate encounter, an excellent 2-1 victory in Zagreb that owed much to a double from Romelu Lukaku, one of several talents who have added a new dimension to their game since moving to the English Premier League.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Founding members of FIFA, Belgium have taken part in 11 FIFA World Cup™ final tournaments and were an ever-present force between 1982 and 2002. In 1998, the side coached by Georges Leekens in his first spell at the helm came third in their group and made an early exit, while in 2002 Robert Waseige’s men fell in the last 16 to eventual winners Brazil. Neither of those teams came anywhere close to matching the generation that sparkled during Mexico 1986, when they reached the semi-finals before succumbing to Argentina.
The key players
On paper, Belgium can call upon an armada of stars, all plying their trade in Europe’s most prestigious championships. The depth of their talent pool is striking, with Nacer Chadli threatening to eclipse crowd favourite Eden Hazard before the latter has approached anything near his peak. Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois and Toby Alderweireld are the latest stars to emerge, while the likes of Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini and Steven Defour have already established themselves as senior figures.
Coach: Marc Wilmots
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup Mexico 1986 (Fourth place), Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Antwerp 1920 (Winners)
Former stars: Enzo Scifo, Jean-Marie Pfaff, Marc Wilmots