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FIFA World Cup 2022: All that glitters is not the Golden Generation!

Updated on: 29 November,2022 08:14 AM IST  |  Doha
Ashwin Ferro |

Star-studded Belgium’s utterly pedestrian show leads to 0-2 shock defeat to Morocco; manager Martinez attributes their present situation to excessive expectations from top stars

FIFA World Cup 2022: All that glitters is not the Golden Generation!

Belgium’s Axel Witsel (left), Kevin De Bruyne (centre) and Charles De Ketelaere wear a dejected look after their defeat to Morocco on Sunday. Pic/Getty Images

It’s amazing how some of Belgium’s absolute superstars in Europe’s elite club-level are playing some utterly pedestrian football in this quadrennial showpiece event. This was the playing XI (with names of the top European clubs they represent) of the World No.2 (only behind the mighty Brazil) side that shockingly went down to No.22 Morocco 0-2 at the Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday: Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), defenders Toby Alderweireld (Royal Antwerp) and Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht), midfielders Axel Witsel (Atletico Madrid), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Amadou Onana (Everton), Timothy Castagne (Leicester City), forwards Michy Batshuayi (Fenerbahce) and Eden Hazard (Real Madrid). 

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez

Called the Golden Generation for the pedigree of players who are mostly award-winners in European competitions, Belgium won a prestigious third place at the last edition, Russia 2018. This time though it’s been a third-rated show so far, with an unimpressive 1-0 win over Canada followed by this shambolic show against Morocco. Second-half strikes from Romain Saiss and Zakaria Aboukhlal saw the Africans take off the sheen, if there was any left, from the Golden Gen.

One of the world’s best goalkeepers, Courtois, had a poor night under the bar, where he let in two soft free-kicks of which one, thankfully for them, was adjudicated off-side, but only marginally. De Bruyne, one of the world’s best midfielders, terribly erred in the centre of the pitch—with mispasses and poor anticipation being his top mistakes. And finally, Hazard, who has flopped at Real Madrid, seems to have carried that poor form to the Gulf. He was evidently off the pace and even failed to get past defenders with his trademark swift cutting dodges that saw him become a superstar, first at Lille and then at Chelsea. He was promptly taken off around the hour mark with manager Roberto Martinez admitting that he needs to “protect Eden if we want to use him for the full tournament.” 

Also Read: FIFA World Cup 2022: ‘Mini-earthquake’ at Stadium 974

Interestingly, De Bruyne had said in the build-up to this World Cup that this Belgium team are too old to win the title and that 2018 was their best chance. Martinez didn’t agree with him, but admitted that “this is not the best Belgium yet.” Martinez also analysed his team’s poor show perfectly when he said: “that next pass was missing. That link-up was missing, and in the final third, we couldn’t find that spare man.”

Martinez explained that his players have too much responsibility on their shoulders which is why “there is no freedom and enjoyment. We must have great joy in our game, but we lack that joy because of this responsibility and because of what is expected of us.” It is learnt that riots broke out in several Belgian cities on Sunday night following this loss. Clearly, even the fans are unhappy seeing their ‘gold’ prices dropping!

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