Belgium Fails to Bridge EURO 2012 Dreams
By Nicholas Spiller
Going by the current run of things, and the good 3-1 beating by Germany, this young Belgian side still has a lot to learn. Combined with a Turkish victory, the result means that Belgium will take no part in EURO 2012.
The tournament will suffer from it as the current crop of youngsters are poised to take the footballing world by storm. Players like Romelu Lukaku (18) and Eden Hazard (20) will become very impressive stars. Lukaku was bought by Chelsea this past summer and looks to be the ideal replacement for the burly Didier Drogba. Hazard recently won the French League with Lille and more personally won the French Player of the Year award. He has been linked with a host of top clubs including Arsenal and Real Madrid.
These two young players are only the start of the deep squad of talent that Belgium possesses, and who will now miss out on an excellent experience of an International tournament.
The last time Belgium was in a major tournament, Lukaku was nine years old. This sort of immaturity rang prevailingly throughout the hearts of the country during the frustrating qualification process. After a tough loss at home to Germany, where one defensive lapse cost them the game, the Red Devils lost to Turkey late in the game. Unsurprisingly, these were the two teams that finished above Belgium in their group.
Belgium played well here-on after, defeating lesser opposition in most matches, but their tendency to lose focus at the end of games ultimately cost them. They gave up a last ditch goal in a 4-4 thriller against Austria a year ago. Then they did the same against Azerbaijan in an uninspiring 1-1 draw a month ago. With these 4 lost points, Belgium would have finished the group in second place, regardless of what enfolded in Germany on the last day.
Try as they might, Belgium could never pressure the Germans and then left themselves completely exposed at the back to the lightning-quick counter-attacks of the home side. Clearly this team lacked the necessary heart and steel that is required of true champions.
Thomas Vermaelen, who could have offered something of the sort, has been injured for roughly a year now, and the imposing physical presence of Daniel van Buyten too was unavailable in the final match.
But as I stated before, this team should not have even let it come to this match. There is far too much talent for Belgium not to reach a summer tournament. Ripples have been emerging in recent months that this team is full of Pre-Madonnas, but such criticism is to be expected of a young, skilled side that has failed to deliver. They will grow up. They will become more cohesive. And perhaps, this experience will set their heads straight and serve to demonstrate that a certain driving a passion is needed before Belgium is ready to take part on the international scene again.
Nicholas Spiller is a freelance soccer writer and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org