It is very difficult to decide whether you’d call Belgium underrated or overrated before the World Cup. On one hand, they are not yet counted among the best – even when they have a top squad. And yet again, they are still being touted as the dark horse, even their success in previous international tournaments in minimum.
However, placed in a group alongside Algeria, South Korea and Russia, fantasy players would surely be looking at them to deliver the goods. A Hazard, a Fellaini or a Lukaku – they have all been Fantasy Premier League darlings. But how do they weigh up here?
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, on loan from Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Koen Casteels (Hoffenheim).
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St Petersburg), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele (both Tottenham), Steven Defour (Porto), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj (both Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Divock Origi (Lille), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg)
Attackers: Romelu Lukaku (Everton, on loan from Chelsea), Dries Mertens (Napoli).
There aren’t too many surprises in the squad, except the omission of midfielder Radja Nainggolan, and the absence of Villa striker Christian Benteke due to injury. United prodigy Adnan Januzaj makes the squad, and so does out-of-form teammate Marouane Fellaini
TALKING UP PROSPECTS
Thibaut Courtois is the #1 at goal, he is one of the better choices available if you want to stick to a single goalkeepers throughout the tournament. Jan Vertonghen (left) and Vincent Kompany (centre) will be nailed-on, they will considerably cost you a large fortune, as well. For me, Toby Alderweireld is the best choice in defence. Anthony van den Borre is the only other guy who can play in the same position, but he is not really a threat to Alderweireld in terms of breaking into the XI. As of the other CB position, I’d see one of Thomas Vermaelen and Daniel van Buyten start, it is hard to say who.
It is very likely that Belgium will line up 4-2-3-1, so we are talking about two holding midfielders, two wingers, and one ”in the hole”. Axel Witsel has made one of the central midfield spots his own, so the other one is likely to go to either Marouane Fellaini or Moussa Dembele. Given the options upfront, I wouldn’t touch either, but given ‘you get one point each for every recovered ball’ in the McDonald’s official FIFA Fantasy, they might be in for a lookout. Attacking wise, Eden Hazard will be the most potent option on the left, coming off the back of a top season at Chelsea. However, Kevin de Bruyne, who will play behind the striker, might be the best Fantasy option for the midfield. With four goals in qualifying, Hazard’s former teammate will look to go all guns blazing. On the right, Kevin Mirallas or Dries Mertens will start, though the latter looks more likely.
It is all about Romelu Lukaku. He is the only established striker in the Belgium squad, and having already impressed in the pre-tournament friendlies. He is the man Belgium will bank on, for goals, and there is a huge possibility he won’t disappoint his team or his Fantasy loyalists.
LIKELY STARTING XI
Courtouis; Alderweireld, Kompany, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Witsel, Fellaini; Mertens, de Bruyne, Hazard; Lukaku.
Thibaut Courtois (GK), Toby Alderweireld (DEF), Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne (both MID) and Romelu Lukaku (ATT).