Monday, May 05, 2014

Meet the Team: Belgium

Nickname: Any way you say it, Dutch (Rode Duievels), French (Diables Rouge) or German (Rote Tuefel), the Red Devils makes for a strong nickname.

Pick your poison
Star: When your team has come together as completely as Belgium's has, you have a relative embarrassment of riches in the "star" category. We could easily pick out four candidates for this spot, including the dynamic studs Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku or even the uncapped Andan Januzaj (an injury to Christian Benteke holds him back from the list), but we'll go with a defender Vincent Kompany, probably one of the most feared defenders in the game today, and the leader of a squad that makes good things happen.

Hip-Star: Like I just said, there's almost too much attention on Belgium's stars to leave room for anyone to go unnoticed. But in all the conversations about the power at the front of the attack, it's easy to forget that they have a great pair of options between the posts including Simon Mignolet who has dominated for Liverpool in their run for the league crown this year. And since he serves as back up to the even more dominant Thibaut Courtois you can rest assured that cheering for him will set you at as a true fan and not a bandwagon jumper.

X-Factor: As widely lauded as the Belgians are right now, they have to beware their inexperience. Heading into their first major international tournament in 12 years, will likely lead to a few moments of serious intimidation as, for all their success, they've yet to prove much playing an intense schedule so far from home.

Coach: Marc Wilmots has gone from national legend on the field, to national legend at the side of it. While the team has undoubted natural talent, he gets a lot of the credit for seeing them develop into a disciplined, unified squad despite the cultural gaps and infrequency of play.

History: Hey, it's that Wilmots guy again! The nation's most prolific World Cup scorer  has four tallies to his name over three tournaments (though none in '94). But he was still a punk kid when Belgium had their greatest glory, making the Semis in 1986.

Food: Pretty much, if it's delicious, it's Belgian. I'm eagerly anticipating my meals of French Fries and Mussels, Waffles and ice Cream, all chased down with a trappist beer.

Bart De Weaver wants a Flemish
Team to triumph.
Fool:  Guess what country has the record for longest time without an official government...nope, not Iraq...BELGIUM! Yes, courtesy of the obstinate New Flemish Alliance (a nationalist organization for Flemish separation from French speaking Wallonia) and the rest of the country know...not nationalist Flemists. They've dithered over governments for far longer than has ever been necessary. So the good news is that if Belgium wins both Flanders and Wallonia win...which means that Flanders thinks they lose a little bit.

Best Case: Sparked by the sterling play of their great young talents they crush the group stage, catch a break with a beaten up Group of Death runner up and then build momentum all the way to the first of three Cup triumphs.

Worst Case: The loss of Benteke is a blow to their cohesion and they struggle to vary their form which leads to a stumble in their first match and a crushing implosion in the group stage.

My prediction: They went from dark-horses to overrated to dark-horses again. They'll best their group easily and I think they can spring a surprise on a poorer-than-they-look Portugal. Really the Quarterfinals are triumph enough for a young team getting their first taste of the big time.

Added Bonus: Hard to choose between Felmish and Walloonian hip-hop, but there will be plenty of we'l go with Krapoel in Axe's "Birgit"(as a mix of both their lyricism and a tamer version of their weird ass videos.

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