Domenico Tedesco’s New-Look Belgium And Their Hunt For First Silverware At Euro 2024

Domenico Tedesco’s New-Look Belgium And Their Hunt For First Silverware At Euro 2024

With an array of stars at their disposal, dubbed the “Golden Generation,” Belgium once looked dangerous on paper and was among the favorites to win every tournament they played in since 2014. During this era, Belgium was the top-ranked FIFA men’s national team, briefly in 2015 and again occupying the pole position from September 2018 to March 2022.

They had their moments during this spell, going as far as the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. However, for a team with such a talented roster, anything but a title-winning campaign was considered a failure. Belgium failed to capitalize on their championship window and now find themselves in a transition phase, with most of the talents that once made them a heavyweight already retired or past their prime.

Following a horrific display at the FIFA 2022 World Cup, where De Rode Duivels failed to make it past the group stage, the Belgians will be seeking redemption at Euro 2024. With their golden era in its concluding stage and a string of new players in the lineup, we take a deep look at Belgium’s chances of winning a first continental title, focusing on Domenico Tedesco’s tactical approach and Belgium’s potential matchups in Germany.

Belgium in Transition Mode Under Tedesco

The news of Roberto Martinez’s resignation came as no shock after Belgium’s woeful World Cup campaign. They were the 2nd ranked team in the world going into the tournament and were considered favourites to make it out of the Group Stage, despite finding themselves in one of the toughest groups. Martinez’s men were only able to secure a win against Canada and a draw against Croatia to finish 3rd with just four points.

Following Martinez’s post-World Cup departure, the Belgian Football Federation announced the appointment of former Schalke 04 and RB Leipzig coach Domenico Tedesco as his replacement on February 8, 2023. The Italian-born coach led Leipzig to a DFB Pokal title in 2022 and a UEFA Europa League semi-final appearance. He was praised by his new employers for his tactical approach, with his first mission to help Belgium qualify for the Euros.

Tedesco impressed in his first game in charge, leading his team comfortably past Sweden in the first Euro Qualifiers game, with target-man Romelu Lukaku netting a hat trick. Belgium have since clinched victories against the likes of Germany and Austria, and are yet to see defeat under the 36-year-old. Belgium qualified for the Euros, sitting comfortably atop Group F, with six wins and two draws. Lukaku was also the top scorer in the Euro Qualifiers, with 14 goals to his name.

The Red Devils appear to have bounced back in the playoffs, despite the absence of many big names that once made them a dreadful team. With a younger team comprised of fresh legs and a sprinkle of veteran experience, Belgium’s transition era hasn’t fared badly. Tedesco and his men will hope to continue this momentum at the Euros and appear poised to take on the best teams on the continent.

The New-Look Belgium Still Appears Good on Paper

Tedesco’s squad throughout the qualifiers has been a far cry compared to the big names that once adorned the red and black colors of the Belgian national team. Gone are the days when Belgium had the luxury of fielding the likes of Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, and Romelu Lukaku in the same lineup. Yet, the Red Devils still have a formidable team of fresh young talents and a few surviving members of the Golden Generation in De Bruyne, Vertonghen, and Lukaku.

Belgium will likely maintain the 4-2-3-1 formation it has grown used to since Tedesco’s appointment. De Rode Duivels will be without first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who suffered an ACL tear last summer and another knee injury in March. His health wouldn’t have been the only issue, however, considering his well-documented fallout with Tedesco last year. Goalkeepers Koen Casteels and Matz Sels have stepped up in Courtois’s absence, with Casteels being the favorite to start in front of goal.

The 36-year-old Vertonghen is still going strong for Belgium and will be tasked with leading the team’s defense. The national team’s most-capped player could partner with Arthur Theate or Wout Faes in the starting lineup, while a host of young defensive talents like Ameen Al-Dakhil, Hugo Siquet, Zino Debast, and Jorne Spileers will also hope to make the final 26-man list.

Further up the pitch, Belgium’s midfield will be anchored by none other than Kevin De Bruyne. Arguably the best-attacking midfielder in the world today, the 32-year-old Champions League winner looks as good as he ever has and was key to Manchester City’s fourth consecutive Premier League title win this season. Tedesco could potentially pair him with two defensive minds at the center of the pitch, with Orel Mangala and Aster Vranckx being the most probable starters. Amadou Onana, Arthur Vermeeren, Mandela Keita, and Youri Tielemans will also be on the plane to Germany as added support to Belgium’s midfield, while Romeo Lavia has been ruled out due to injury.

The starting forward lineup will undoubtedly feature Belgium’s all-time leading scorer Romelu Lukaku, who has been on a tear when on international duty. Jeremy Doku has enjoyed a brilliant spell at the club level and will join the center forward on the left wing, while Lois Openda should get the nod on the right. Belgium’s attack could also use Leandro Trossard in place of Doku, while youngsters Charles de Ketelaere and Johan Bakayoko complete Tedesco’s list of attackers.

The Whole World Will Be Watching

As one of the best teams on the continent, Belgium tickets will be among the most sought-after at Euro 2024. Tedesco’s men come into this tournament with lower expectations on their shoulders, a sharp contrast from the years prior. Nevertheless, Belgium will be keen on going as far as possible in the tournament.

They find themselves in the easiest group on paper and should win Group E without much contention from the other teams. Finishing the top two means they will qualify directly for the knockout stage without facing another group winner, but winning the group will pit them against the best third-placed team. Assuming they win the Round of 16, the Red Devils could face Portugal in the quarterfinals, England in the semis, and Germany or Spain in the final.