As in 2016, Belgium stops at the quarter-final stage at the Euro. Another disappointment for the Red Devils, who hoped to win their first major international competition.
The competitions go by and look the same for Belgium. For the fourth time in a row, after the 2014 World Cup, Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, the Red Devils were eliminated despite a golden generation. This time, it is against Italy, in the quarter-finals of Euro 2021 (1-2). However, as at every start of the tournament, hopes were high to see Belgium finally unlock its international record.
We will therefore have to go back and wait a year and a half and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Belgian regrets will be all the greater as after the elimination of France, Portugal and Germany in this Euro, the path to a trophy has never seemed so open. Belgium will have finally come up against stronger than she, as in the last competitions: in 2014, she lost in the quarterfinals against the future finalist, Argentina (0-1), just like in 2016 against the amazing team from Wales (1-3) and in 2018 in the semi-final against the future French world champions (0-1).
From this frustrating defeat against the Blues of Didier Deschamps emerged the Belgian “seum”, which the French fans continue to revel in today. The Red Devils players felt that France had not played while Belgium relied on more possession and were more enterprising. For this Euro 2021, Roberto Martinez’s players have tried this tricolor method: less possession of the ball for more verticality in the offensive game.
The recipe worked against Portugal in the round of 16 (1-0). “We played intelligently,” explained Roberto Martinez, the Belgian coach. It didn’t work out against Italy, despite two chances from Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku in the first half. Result: with this elimination, Belgium comes out disappointed and has reneged on some of its playing principles.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted, we defended a lot and if we want to go further, we are going to have to play better than that,” warned Eden Hazard after the victory against Portugal. The absence of the Belgian captain and the physical condition of Kevin De Bruyne for this quarter-final against Italy did not help. While they have dominated the FIFA rankings for almost three years, Belgium will therefore have to wait to try their luck again in a major international competition.
Kevin de Bruyne after Belgium’s defeat to Italy on July 2 in Munich (FEDERICO GAMBARINI / AFP)
With which players? In the year following the disappointment of the 2018 World Cup, Belgium experienced changes with the international retirement of Marouane Fellaini and captain Vincent Kompany. Little by little, the golden generation of Belgium is renewing itself and some players present for ten years in the selection will certainly leave the ship and will not see Qatar in 2022.
Jan Vertonghen (34 years old), Thomas Vermaelen (35 years old) or Dries Mertens (34 years old) are nearing the end, while the squad of Belgium (28.7 years old on average) is aging from competition to competition . The defense of the Red Devils will be one of the projects while the breeding ground in this sector is not very important. During the 2022 World Cup, Belgium will still be able to count on its captains Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Axel Witsel or even Eden Hazard, if the latter manages to chain meetings without injuring himself.
8 – Jérémy Doku managed 8 dribbles against Italy tonight, a record for a U20 in the same game in a major tournament since Opta analyzed the CdM (1966) and the EURO (1980). Packing. # EURO2020 #BELITA pic.twitter.com/yfk34vy57m
Jeremy Doku (19), very good against the Italians despite the defeat, is one of the elements brought to bring freshness to this group. His tenure in the quarterfinals says a lot about the confidence Roberto Martinez places in him. The Belgian coach, of Spanish nationality, was extended until 2022 a year ago and is expected to still be present at the World Cup in Qatar. After the 3rd place acquired at the 2018 World Cup, the objective will be to do better. At the risk of experiencing another disappointment and of experiencing a downgrading that could continue.
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