Belgium kick off their Euro 2016 campaign against Italy tonight and it is a game a number of Premier League clubs and fans will have a keen eye one.
Belgium have the largest concentration of Premier League stars in their team outside of England with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku all representing the Red Devils.
There is a weight of expectation on the Belgians; previously ranked world number one’s they are the highest ranked European team in the competition now sitting as the world’s second best team, but can they show it?
In Brazil back in 2014 the world awaited as Belgium were picked to light up the tournament. Instead they laboured through the competition before being eliminated by Argentina in the quarterfinals. The exciting attacking football wasn’t there, the individual brilliance was missing too.
But two years on, two years more experienced and more developed, they are again being picked as dark horse for the competition with people expecting them to out do the regulars like Germany, Italy and Spain.
Jason Cundy looked at Belgium and their potential ahead of their first match:
Belgium failed to live up to billing in Brazil 2 years ago but they are 2 years old and wiser and now could be the time they earn a seat at world football’s top table.
Italy isn’t an easy opener but Belgium have the personnel to over come them, you look at the likes of Kevin De Bruyne who showed that the £58m City spent on him last summer could prove a bargain and the defenders from Tottenham Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen who built a base from which Spurs could mount a title challenge. For me Alderweireld was the best defender in England last season, and even though they aren’t paired for the national team both can expect to play.
There is also Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois who both didn’t have their best seasons but have undeniable quality as well as Romelu Lukaku, Moussa Dembele, Roma’s Radja Nainggolan who has been linked with Chelsea, Divock Origi and Michy Batshuayi.
A team flooded with talent, with a defensive bedrock from which they can build on; Belgium should be in and about the final stages of the competition come July, but they will need to perform better than they did in Brazil if they are to have a shot at lifting the trophy and finally realising the potential that their number 2 world ranking suggests.