One golden generation is taking Russia by storm.
Belgium, led by former Everton manager, Roberto Martinez have weathered the storm to reach the semifinal of the 2018 World Cup.
Long dubbed as World Cup contenders, The Red Devils are taking one step at a time and leaving the markings on the wall on the biggest stage of football as they make the semifinal only for the second time in their history.
Four years ago, in Brazil, they succumbed to Argentina’s stop block, making an unceremonious exit from a tournament they looked forward to with optimism.
Not a lot has changed since 2014. It’s almost the same set of players but a different coach.
Age has been fair too, as most of the squad are in their prime.
The differences between the Belgium of 2014 and 2018 are simply maturity, character and winning mentality. They had little or none from the three, four years ago in Brazil.
The most powerful driving force has been character which was evident in their last two knockout encounters against Japan and Brazil. They came back from two goals down to steal a 3-2 win over Japan in the round-16 before ending Brazil’s run in the quarterfinals.
Coupled with the mentality, the Red Devils have not left anything to chance from their first game against Panama. Although they emerged from one of the easiest groups, their run have not lacked inspiration.
Roberto Martinez deserves some credit for how far they’ve come. Especially in the knockout stage as the Spanish made bold calls in response to the yearnings of the game.
Before Brazil’s game, many felt Kevin De Bruyne has been underutilized throughout the tournament. He probably knew how to twist things as he moved him up to form a lethal front three with Hazard and Lukaku against Brazil.
Even though the inclusion of Fellaini and Chadli raised questions, there was no doubting the tactical flexibility of Belgium under Martinez, especially when De Bruyne was pushed up into an advanced role.
Devastating was less.
Eden Hazard is just one captain when Vincent Kompany is on the field. Yet, Belgium haven’t lacked leadership as the relentless 32 year old gives them balance from the back.
Barring any horrible injury to the Manchester City man, the ship will coast home safely.
From goalkeeping through the defense and midfield to their attack, Belgium has so much in terms of depth and they’ve surely maximized their strength.
As much as they have individual players with different qualities, they’ve bonded well as a unit.