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Belgium's squad is packed full of stars such as Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne
Belgium's squad is packed full of stars such as Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne

Belgium are at the peak of their powers — now they need to start turning performances into silverware.

The pressure is on manager Roberto Martinez to mount a strong challenge for the European Championship trophy and it is not hard to see why they are one of the tournament favourites.

Martinez, 47, has a squad packed full of top talent at his disposal but can the Red Devils deliver on the biggest stage when it counts?

Background

Belgium’s best Euros performance to date came in 1980, when they lost 2-1 to West Germany in the final.

Today’s vintage is arguably better than that iconic side and Martinez is the man tasked with guiding them to glory.

The former Everton boss replaced Marc Wilmots after Belgium’s Euro 2016 elimination by Wales and his impact has been transformational.

He led them to third at the 2018 World Cup to record their second-best performance at a major tournament, beating England twice in Russia.

But the jury is still out on whether they can go all the way this summer. 

How they qualified

Eden Hazard remains crucial to Belgium's chances at Euro 2020
Eden Hazard remains crucial to Belgium's chances at Euro 2020

The Red Devils were simply unstoppable throughout their qualifying campaign.

They won every match in Group I, scoring 40 goals, never netting less than two in a game and conceding on just three occasions.

Their biggest win came in a 9-0 annihilation of San Marino but it was perhaps their 4-1 victory over Russia that felt the most significant, when brothers Thorgan and Eden Hazard netted three between them.

Belgium will certainly feel confident when the sides meet again in the Euro 2020 group stage.

The line-up

Martinez has consistently operated with a 3-4-2-1 formation during his time with Belgium and the system makes perfect use of the attacking talent he can call upon.

Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen will likely sit either side of Lyon’s Jason Denayer at the back, while Youri Tielemans should play alongside veteran Axel Witsel in the middle of the park.

Question marks remain over whether the clinical Dries Mertens will start up top but there can be no doubt that Romelu Lukaku will.

Lukaku, 28, netted 30 goals in all competitions for Serie A champions Inter Milan in 2020-21 and is Belgium’s all-time top goalscorer with 59.

Predicted line-up: Courtois; Alderweireld, Denayer, Vertonghen; T Hazard, Witsel, Tielemans, Meunier; E Hazard, De Bruyne; Lukaku.

Star man: Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku has been a constant goal threat for Inter
Romelu Lukaku has been a constant goal threat for Inter

Belgium have plenty of star players to choose from but Lukaku comes into the tournament as one of Europe’s most in-form strikers.

The ex-Manchester United hitman had plenty to prove in Italy after never quite living up to his price tag at Old Trafford — and he will be looking to remind his old club what they are missing once again at the Euros.

Lukaku averaged a remarkable 0.75 goals per 90 minutes in Serie A during Inter's title-winning campaign and has been similarly prolific at international level.

He struck five times in just five outings during Belgium's Nations League campaign, in addition to a further seven goals during Euro 2020 qualifying.

Up-and-comer: Jeremy Doku

Flying forward Jeremy Doku is the youngest member of Martinez’s squad and has a big future ahead of him for club and country.

The 19-year-old Rennes prodigy was in electric form in 2020-21, bamboozling Ligue 1 defences with his powerful runs, explosive dribbling and quick feet.

A player in the mould of fellow countryman Hazard, Doku just needs to add greater end product to his game in order to emulate the Real Madrid No7.

The boss: Roberto Martinez

Martinez's most notable feats include taking his ball-playing Swansea side into the Championship and winning the FA Cup with minnows Wigan, while his record with Belgium has seen him linked with the vacant Tottenham job in recent weeks.

The Spaniard also has a strong relationship with Lukaku from his days as Everton boss — and that understanding appears to be paying dividends.

But despite the wealth of talent he can choose from, Martinez has spoken about how tough the Euros will be.

He said: "You can’t just name your favourites in any tournament, that is very subjective. There is no such thing as a favourite nation.

"It is going to be very competitive. The top four teams in the World Cup were European. That is a measurement of the European Championship."

Winning Euro 2020 will not be easy but reaching the final will be the aim — and the expectation — for Belgium.

All information correct as of midday, June 2, 2021

Tags

BelgiumEuropean ChampionshipRomelu LukakuKevin de BruyneEden Hazard

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