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EURO 2016: Time to shine but can star-studded Belgium meet expectations?

Currently ranked second in the world, Belgium have it all ahead of them to achieve success at the 2016 European Championships.

Although a team with quality players across the pitch, Belgium have struggled to live up to expectations in recent times and may well do so again at Euro 2016.

With usual captain and Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany ruled out through injury, the nicknamed Red Devils could struggle for guidance in France, as Chelsea ace Eden Hazard gets set to warm to the captain's armband.

Despite having plenty of individual stars, Belgium must find a way work to as a team under Marc Wilmots if they are to live up to their billing as the second best footballing nation in the world.

Having only narrowly avoided defeat in a warm-up match with Finland, and coming from behind to beat Norway on Sunday, Euro 2016 will be no stroll for the high-flying Belgians who may just come crashing down in France.


Belgium
(The Red Devils)

HEAD COACH: Marc Wilmots

TRIBAL'S TOP 3: Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku

WILDCARD:Michy Batshuayi. The 22-year-old has transitioned well to the international stage and after a club season with Marseille consisting of 23 goals and 10 assists behind him, he could prove a valuable spark in attack, and may well fly under the radar amongst the big-name Belgian forwards.

HISTORY: The Euro1980 Runners-Up have failed to qualify for the past two Euros.


EURO OVERVIEW:
Group E won't be an easy one for Belgium to escape from with the likes of Italy, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland ready to pounce against one of the tournament fancies.

But with such a star-studded side, all it will take is for a few to shine for the affectionately known Red Devils to make their first Euro knockout stage since 1980.

Once in the do-or-die phase of the tournament, we predict a face-off with Croatia, a team Belgium should pull past, before a quarter-final exit at the hands of reigning World Cup champions Germany. That said, with the players at their disposable, Belgium are more than capable of going further.

Between the sticks for Belgium, it will likely be Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois ahead of Liverpool's Simon Mignolet. And they may need shore up in defence as they have failed to keep a clean sheet in their past seven matches.

While even without Kompany, the Belgium backline is formidable enough with Spurs duo Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen adding plenty of strength in defence but they will need to shine in France if they are to avoid conceding to give themselves a solid foundation, as five of their eight defenders have played less than 12 internationals.

In the middle of the park there's no shortage of versatility with Roma's Radja Nainggolan and Zenit Saint Petersburg's Alex Witsel comfortable in holding positions while Premier League stars Kevin De Bruyne and Hazard providing the creativity and Napoli's Dries Mertens and Tottenham's Mousa Dembele effective in attack.

The icing on the Belgium cake is of course their strikers with Everton's Romelu Lukaku the likely starter up front, ahead of Batshuayi. The likes of Divock Origi, Yannick Carrasco and Christian Benteke are there for support and if things according to plan, perhaps they can sneak past the final eight.

Belgium are surely feeling the weight of their world no.2 ranking, and top seed in Europe, and their showing at Euro2016 will prove one way or another if they can cope with it.


TRIBAL'S FINAL SAY:
Quarter-finalists

Joshua Thomas
About the author

Joshua Thomas

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