Euro 2016: Belgium

Dummy Hoy

Angry Pissbum
SoSH Member
Jul 22, 2006
6,056
Falmouth
I'm away for the weekend, but I'll put up an in depth post on Monday.

Preview in one sentence: Enough talent to win it, can Wilmots utilize it properly?

(sadly, I think not. I'm rooting though!)
 

Zososoxfan

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Jul 30, 2009
5,447
South of North
I agree that this team is currently among the top tier of talent in Europe (France, Germany, and Spain being the others). One thing that interests me is that the expected starters are primarily comprised of EPL players (Courtois/Mignolet, Alderweild, Vertonghen, Fellaini, Dembele, KDB, Lukaku, Hazard). Very excited to follow this team.
 

Tangled Up In Red

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Nov 8, 2004
2,631
Bernal
Vertonghen and Alderweireld, the best CB pairing in the Premier League will be deployed at left and right backs, respectively, if I understand correctly.
(Additional Spurs fan note): Dembele has to see the field for this team.
 

Zomp

Dope
Dope
Aug 28, 2006
11,343
The Slums of Shaolin
Why does Dembele have to see the field? Midfield is their deepest position.

Nainggolan - After Vidal probably the best well rounded midfielder in the world
De Bruyne - Top 10 player in the world
Witsel - I don't see the hype but Wilmots loves him
Mertens - Can play as a right winger as well but has been in great form for Napoli
Fellaini - He's got that thug appeal
 

BelgianSoxFan

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Nov 11, 2003
541
Los Gatos, CA
Vertonghen and Alderweireld, the best CB pairing in the Premier League will be deployed at left and right backs, respectively, if I understand correctly.
(Additional Spurs fan note): Dembele has to see the field for this team.
Vertonghen and Alderweireld are playing centrally tomorrow. Injuries have been tough on defense, albeit that except for Kompany they all have been mostly in depth. Their best defenders are all CB, so even without injuries players have to be out of position. On the other hand are all best defenders not CB (like the best pitchers are SP)?
Hopefully KDB and Hazard can click. F the special one, if they had stayed together at Chelsea, especially behind Lukaku, Belgium would be the favorites. And Chelsea would have won a few more prizes too.
I was visiting Belgium recently and the country is really pumped about their chances though no one believes they will win it. I would be pleased with reaching the semi finals but they have a chance for better.
 

Dummy Hoy

Angry Pissbum
SoSH Member
Jul 22, 2006
6,056
Falmouth
Line up from the last friendly:

Courtois
Denayer--Alderwiereld-Vertonghen-Lukaku
Nainggolan-Witsel
Mertens--DeBruyne--Hazard
Lukaku

That's a pretty strong lineup. One assumes if Vermaelen is healthy he's in, but probably out wide. I think Alderwiereld is better outside than any of the other CBs, but you can't split up him and Vertonghen. I think Vermaelen is in for Lukaku, who is pretty good for a 21 year old. Laurent Ciman (Montreal) may get some time as well. I think the loss of Kompany is huge, but probably more for his leadership than his play. The Spurs CB combo will cover for that loss well.

Aside from that, I think that's your starting 11, although Nainggolan has been spotty under pressure while with Belgium, prone to turnovers...glad to hear Zomp say his form is good with Roma. I think Fellaini is more useful than most, so he provides a decent cover for Witsel and Nainggolan. If they want to get more attack-y or just dring in fresh legs, both Carrasco and Dembele can help.

Lukaku alone up front works fine, I think Origi can help from a couple of different positions, and Benteke can obviously finish too.

Third string goal tender excluded, the two oldest players on this squad are Vermaelen and Ciman (30). Scary how much skill is there, but I have yet to see Wilmots show he can really utilize it. It's not an easy group (Italy, ROI, Sweden) but I think they should be expected to win it, and defeat whoever is second in group D. If they do that, they likely draw Germany, but they can play with anyone in the world (or should be able to). If I'm the KVBV, Wilmots has to really impress or I change it up before Russia.
 

teddykgb

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
7,068
Chelmsford, MA
I can't figure out that neck tattoo by Nainggolan. Belgium have been pretty meh, can't get a grip on the ball and seemingly outnumbered everywhere
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporter
SoSH Member
Jul 2, 2006
16,268
Philadelphia
I can't figure out that neck tattoo by Nainggolan. Belgium have been pretty meh, can't get a grip on the ball and seemingly outnumbered everywhere
Fellaini-Naingolan-Witsel is a pretty awful midfield in terms of passing ability and quickness. Why not play De Bruyne centrally and then a player like Ferreira-Carrasco on the wing?
 

teddykgb

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
7,068
Chelmsford, MA
Fellaini-Naingolan-Witsel is a pretty awful midfield in terms of passing ability and quickness. Why not play De Bruyne centrally and then a player like Ferreira-Carrasco on the wing?
De Bruyne isn't all that quick himself and while I absolutely adore watching him play he's one of those who will fall into the right position and wave at the guy as he runs past him types in CM. I'd be wary of playing him as an outright CM (which will be interesting in regards to Pep). But I think you're right that the entire CM for Belgium is too static and slow. The ball is just moving far too slowly to break down an Italian team and it is only worse against a 3-5-2 where those players are outnumbered and the passing options more limited
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporter
SoSH Member
Jul 2, 2006
16,268
Philadelphia
De Bruyne isn't all that quick himself and while I absolutely adore watching him play he's one of those who will fall into the right position and wave at the guy as he runs past him types in CM. I'd be wary of playing him as an outright CM (which will be interesting in regards to Pep). But I think you're right that the entire CM for Belgium is too static and slow. The ball is just moving far too slowly to break down an Italian team and it is only worse against a 3-5-2 where those players are outnumbered and the passing options more limited
I'm thinking more of De Bruyne as a #10 and then Witsel-Nainggolan behind him as a double pivot. At least De Bruyne in that role can get more involved in getting on the ball and making things happen.
 

teddykgb

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
7,068
Chelmsford, MA
I'm thinking more of De Bruyne as a #10 and then Witsel-Nainggolan behind him as a double pivot. At least De Bruyne in that role can get more involved in getting on the ball and making things happen.
Yeah that is probably what they should be doing. Or just playing De Bruyne at striker like City did at times in an almost Muller like free role. Lukaku can't pass with his teammates. In any case we're trying to add some dynamism in Mertens or Carrasco to the Belgian side which they clearly desperately need. Fellaini and Lukaku are Plan B hoof ball options if you can't open them up. It feels like Italy could play the game at this pace all day without conceding
 

teddykgb

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
7,068
Chelmsford, MA
Belgium reminds me - every time I see them play - of an all-star team that has never practiced together before. There's loads of talent but they always seem to have met each other 15 minutes before kickoff.
I think the problem is that the midfield names are big but they've all been shown to be relatively overrated. They all look the part and are useful midfielders in their own way but they're quite similar and just don't have the X factor their reputations suggest. If your midfield isn't able to get a grip in a match you'll always look less than the sum of your parts
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporter
SoSH Member
Jul 2, 2006
16,268
Philadelphia
I think the problem is that the midfield names are big but they've all been shown to be relatively overrated. They all look the part and are useful midfielders in their own way but they're quite similar and just don't have the X factor their reputations suggest. If your midfield isn't able to get a grip in a match you'll always look less than the sum of your parts
Agreed. They really lack a composed passer in midfield. Right now they remind of some of Arsenal's worst games this season when we were playing Flamini-Ramsey in midfield and could never get anything going.

That was a fantastic pass from Bonucci but awful defending from Alderweireld. You simply can't allow a player to get behind you there, especially on a straight pass with no angle.
 

Dummy Hoy

Angry Pissbum
SoSH Member
Jul 22, 2006
6,056
Falmouth
Better from Belgium, but they keep ending up with Fellaini in a creative situation...got to move Hazard or DeBruyne inside and add Carrasco or Mertens outside.
 
Dec 21, 2015
1,410
Like SF121, I'm blown away by the talent level of Belgium. One of the best #10s in the world in KDB, one of the best tall-target strikers in Lukaku (who has quite a bit of pace for his role), a recent Ballon D'Or candidate in Hazard, not to mention Fellaini, Courtois in goal, their should-be CB pairing... if they actually trained together, this team could probably threaten any club team in the world.

And just when their build-up play gets to the point where I'm expecting a clever through ball or overlap run, someone does something unexpected and they turn it over. Or they turn around and pass it backwards 20 yards. Or they get a breakaway and a defender makes a cynical form tackle that would leave Belichick proud. It's just a comedy of team-chemistry errors out there. Bizarre to me.
 
Dec 21, 2015
1,410
Reflecting for a moment, you know what really bothered me about Belgium's tactics? Spacing. It seemed like on every switching of fields, there was a bunching of players in an upfield area, uselessly. Players were gathering in someone else's space, and not seeking out other space they should go to to open up the defense. There were plenty of moments where midfield players were literally standing around doing nothing. Recall TMQ's observations that the biggest difference in appearance between the Patriots and most teams is that no player on the field is ever idle. And in key moments, like Mertens' run at 89' there, nobody bothered to crash the 6 to take the tap-in. They just had no idea what their roles were out there, what their responsibilities were during a given play.

I can blame part of that on coaching, but also part of that on the players not adapting their lifetime of elite-level experience to figure out roles on the fly.
 

fletcherpost

sosh's feckin' poet laureate
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
8,929
America
I was going to say Belgium's best hope of scoring is when they get the ball deep and they can run at Italy with pace. They had a few chances but fluffed their lines. Trying to break through Italy, when they go compact in the box, it's really fuckin tough to do.

Belgium...good individuals. But it's a bloody team game.
 

soxfan121

JAG
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 22, 2002
23,043
Financial problems with the club lol
This was the funniest thing Ian Darke has ever said on air, beating out his commentary on the profligate spending of some club ("they spent a shedload of money with nothing to show for it") several years ago.

Haha, yeah, knocking it into row Z could not be ignored. It was the most complete stoppage of play possible.

sf121, the last 10 minutes are why people were talking about formation and tactics earlier. Belgium have moved to a more sensible formation and brought on a smarter grouping and they've pinned Italy back. Unfortunately for them all their striker options have a touch of Zardes in them.
Yeah, Belgium looked much better after they went to 3 at the back - instead of the 4 centerbacks they deployed in the first half. They looked even better when Fellani went off, and Origi for Lukaku was a push.

BUT... I disagree. Even once all those tactics and formations changes happened, Belgium pulled off that spectacular sequence in the 89th minute where Mertens beat several guys with an awesome individual effort and put the ball into the 6 yard box... where NO ONE was. All of his teammates were all fifteen yards away, standing outside the box, watching the play.

Hazard & DeBruyne is the new century version of Gerrard & Lampard; two great club players who are disappointing at the NT level because their skills are so similar and they like to do the same things...and they can't figure out how to complement each other, how to play together.

Belgium's problems start with their apparent inability to find anyone to play fullback. Are they interested in trading for Fabian Johnson? Four (slow) centerbacks, with two playing out of position, is a constant issue for this team and beyond their ability to play as a team, their inability to field a team where everyone knows how to play a position is a big problem.
 

teddykgb

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
7,068
Chelmsford, MA
This was the funniest thing Ian Darke has ever said on air, beating out his commentary on the profligate spending of some club ("they spent a shedload of money with nothing to show for it") several years ago.



Yeah, Belgium looked much better after they went to 3 at the back - instead of the 4 centerbacks they deployed in the first half. They looked even better when Fellani went off, and Origi for Lukaku was a push.

BUT... I disagree. Even once all those tactics and formations changes happened, Belgium pulled off that spectacular sequence in the 89th minute where Mertens beat several guys with an awesome individual effort and put the ball into the 6 yard box... where NO ONE was. All of his teammates were all fifteen yards away, standing outside the box, watching the play.

Hazard & DeBruyne is the new century version of Gerrard & Lampard; two great club players who are disappointing at the NT level because their skills are so similar and they like to do the same things...and they can't figure out how to complement each other, how to play together.

Belgium's problems start with their apparent inability to find anyone to play fullback. Are they interested in trading for Fabian Johnson? Four (slow) centerbacks, with two playing out of position, is a constant issue for this team and beyond their ability to play as a team, their inability to field a team where everyone knows how to play a position is a big problem.

One of the major things about being a NT manager is that you have to have system flexibility. You don't get to purchase players for a system and can't guarantee that your country will product international quality at any number of positions. The best NT managers are able to take the available pool and make the most of it. Yes, it is a real problem that Belgium have to play CBs at FB, but it's more of a problem that the manager is trying to play a formation with 4 at the back if his country can't produce FBs of acceptable quality. Given their depth at CB and complete black hole at FB, it's a complete shame that Belgium isn't play a 3-x-x formation simply out of pragmatism.

I mean, I agree that Belgium's players look poorly drilled and individualistic. It was a damn shame that nobody was running onto that pull back by Mertens, it was a brilliant effort that deserved more from his teammates. So I mean I agree that there's a problem there, I just think that a good manager could work with and around it and make the sum a very tough team to deal with. Wilmots continues to struggle trying to force his supposedly great CMs onto the pitch with CBs in wide areas and wondering why the team can't seem to build a coherent attack. In a lot of ways, they're lucky they have players like KDB and Hazard who are capable of conjuring up something from nothing as it papers over the team's inability to have players who support one another in attack. This is still a formation/coaching thing to me. If they had settled on a system that flooded the midfield with their relative depth they could work on positioning and making sure players are where they need to be and could balance the midfielders available. Nainggolan, Witsel, Fellaini with Fellaini inexplicably furthest forward and almost playing as a 10 was a particularly egregious deployment of available personnel. You basically have 3 #6s on the pitch all looking to fire the ball forward to KDB or Hazard and watch them do something in attack. It's no surprise that when those players turned looking to support they were staring at those same #6s walking up the pitch or that faux blonde bog brush looking to elbow someone in the box. Nainggolan was particularly atrocious in his walking around and wasting space today but it doesn't matter which, they need to sacrifice at least one if not two of them depending on formation to give them players who can support the attack. Once they went 3 at the back and got rid of two of the #6s they suddenly played something resembling football only they're not drilled well enough in the formation to cover the inevitable counters.

To me, if you're managing Belgium right now you're playing 3 at the back and you're playing KDB as a #10. Hazard takes up wider positions anyway. You have to pick which of your #6s is your first choice and slot him in, then you can begin to work on the wide areas and striker. Maybe a 3-5-2 with both Origi and Lukaku could make up for the fact that neither of them have any close control although I'd be tempted to try something far more radical that puts neither of them on the pitch. Alternatively, you can setup to play on the counter with KDB and Hazard and I suppose Origi but then you want to defend deep and look to spring forward, taking risks in nearly every attack instead of pulling up when outnumbered and regropuing in possession. Belgium got caught today with too much of the ball to hit on the counter and not enough ball skills to break down a stubborn defense.
 

teddykgb

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
7,068
Chelmsford, MA
@sf121: Please don't call it an education. Football opinions are like assholes, as the saying goes...

They'd probably have to play two holding mids and give the outside CBs wide responsibility. Something like what Bielsa was doing with Chile a few years back....I think that's called a 3-3-1-3 in notation or a 3-4-3 where you pick whether the CDMs or CBs have wide responsibility. You effecively drop 5 in defense but get to bring on Mertens/Dembele/Carrasco... I'd probably prefer Witsel and Nainggolan for that role doing something like Vidal + Isla on those Chile teams. It's a big ask but I think I'd rather ask them to work their socks off than ask Vertonghen to do a poor impersonation of a fullback. Chances are Denayer could step into one of these roles and be able to drop in between the CBs and create an effective back 4 if necessary.
 

Dummy Hoy

Angry Pissbum
SoSH Member
Jul 22, 2006
6,056
Falmouth
I'm not sure Deyanar is ready defensively for this stage, and if he was, it's as a CB.

I liked the substitution and the 3 in the back look, and I think Teddy nailed it that the lack of experience in that formation is what did them in. Wilmots lacks cleverness as a manager though, he'd never go for it.

I thought the same thing as Zomp, because they'd be lacking width defensively. I know Mertens could go both ways and I think Carrasco could too, although they would both lose some offensive prowess from having to always be tracking back and there isn't much depth there. Were you to go 3 at the back I think you'd set up with the back three, Mertens and Carrasco out wide, 2 DM (of Witsel/Nainggolan/Fellaini) with DeBruyne and Hazard in the middle with freedom to roam, and Lukaku up front.

I'm still upset about the performance and result (may or may not have ripped the neck of my primary Belgium jersey today- good thing I have another), but I think that game will be a bit of an outlier. Lukaku had a stinker, DeBruyne had one of the worst games I've seen from him as an international, Italy played a perfect Italy game (Conte is going to do wonders at Chelsea), and Wilmots is a dummy. Wilmots will probably continue to be a dummy, but everything else will change. Ninggolan struggled again I thought, which is a bummer, but he should be better as well. I hate to root against the ROI, but I will be.

Any chance a mod can move all the post game Belgium formation talk to the Belgium thread? @Zomp @URI
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporter
SoSH Member
Jul 2, 2006
16,268
Philadelphia
One of the major things about being a NT manager is that you have to have system flexibility. You don't get to purchase players for a system and can't guarantee that your country will product international quality at any number of positions. The best NT managers are able to take the available pool and make the most of it. Yes, it is a real problem that Belgium have to play CBs at FB, but it's more of a problem that the manager is trying to play a formation with 4 at the back if his country can't produce FBs of acceptable quality. Given their depth at CB and complete black hole at FB, it's a complete shame that Belgium isn't play a 3-x-x formation simply out of pragmatism.

I mean, I agree that Belgium's players look poorly drilled and individualistic. It was a damn shame that nobody was running onto that pull back by Mertens, it was a brilliant effort that deserved more from his teammates. So I mean I agree that there's a problem there, I just think that a good manager could work with and around it and make the sum a very tough team to deal with. Wilmots continues to struggle trying to force his supposedly great CMs onto the pitch with CBs in wide areas and wondering why the team can't seem to build a coherent attack. In a lot of ways, they're lucky they have players like KDB and Hazard who are capable of conjuring up something from nothing as it papers over the team's inability to have players who support one another in attack. This is still a formation/coaching thing to me. If they had settled on a system that flooded the midfield with their relative depth they could work on positioning and making sure players are where they need to be and could balance the midfielders available. Nainggolan, Witsel, Fellaini with Fellaini inexplicably furthest forward and almost playing as a 10 was a particularly egregious deployment of available personnel. You basically have 3 #6s on the pitch all looking to fire the ball forward to KDB or Hazard and watch them do something in attack. It's no surprise that when those players turned looking to support they were staring at those same #6s walking up the pitch or that faux blonde bog brush looking to elbow someone in the box. Nainggolan was particularly atrocious in his walking around and wasting space today but it doesn't matter which, they need to sacrifice at least one if not two of them depending on formation to give them players who can support the attack. Once they went 3 at the back and got rid of two of the #6s they suddenly played something resembling football only they're not drilled well enough in the formation to cover the inevitable counters.

To me, if you're managing Belgium right now you're playing 3 at the back and you're playing KDB as a #10. Hazard takes up wider positions anyway. You have to pick which of your #6s is your first choice and slot him in, then you can begin to work on the wide areas and striker. Maybe a 3-5-2 with both Origi and Lukaku could make up for the fact that neither of them have any close control although I'd be tempted to try something far more radical that puts neither of them on the pitch. Alternatively, you can setup to play on the counter with KDB and Hazard and I suppose Origi but then you want to defend deep and look to spring forward, taking risks in nearly every attack instead of pulling up when outnumbered and regropuing in possession. Belgium got caught today with too much of the ball to hit on the counter and not enough ball skills to break down a stubborn defense.
Nice post, Teddy.

The other option is you just play a standard four man back line but you pick real fullbacks. Its not like there are no fullbacks for Wilmots to choose. He is just doing the common gutless national team manager thing of trying to cram all his most famous players into a starting lineup rather than actually creating a functional side. The simple solution is to just play Vertonghen-Alderweireld as the center back partnership and guys from the Jupiler league like Thomas Meunier and the other Lukaku as the fullbacks. But Wilmots probably doesn't have the balls to pick some kid from Club Brugge or Oostende over Vermaelen, who plays for Barcelona.
 

Dummy Hoy

Angry Pissbum
SoSH Member
Jul 22, 2006
6,056
Falmouth
Nice post, Teddy.

The other option is you just play a standard four man back line but you pick real fullbacks. Its not like there are no fullbacks for Wilmots to choose. He is just doing the common gutless national team manager thing of trying to cram all his most famous players into a starting lineup rather than actually creating a functional side. The simple solution is to just play Vertonghen-Alderweireld as the center back partnership and guys from the Jupiler league like Thomas Meunier and the other Lukaku as the fullbacks. But Wilmots probably doesn't have the balls to pick some kid from Club Brugge or Oostende over Vermaelen, who plays for Barcelona.
This is a great point that I think people are missing- there are fullbacks on the roster: professional, qualified fullbacks.

The one thing that does kind of get missed is what a political hornets nest the nation is. When my Uncle was visiting a handful of years ago, he said the Flemish/Walloon animosity was shockingly current, with what he felt was legitimate dislike apparent. (Full disclosure- my family is from the Flemish half without reservation). That doesn't even begin to get into the whole Congo fiasco, let alone some of the issues with immigration, radical muslim enclaves, unemployment, far right nationalism, etc. It wouldn't surprise me if there were locker room issues with this team, especially without the strong leadership of Kompany.

One thing I need to give Wilmots credit for was building unity among a fractious group- the national team had been a mess for years, but he did a nice job bringing them together. The influence of Kompany cannot be overstated in that regard either. Maybe Wilmots' other deficiencies are showing through and people are tuning him out at this point.

I'm sure @BelgianSoxFan could give a better summary than I.
 

sachmoney

Member
SoSH Member
Jun 14, 2008
9,513
Tim Thomas' Bunker
A lot of what we hear from those covering Belgium is that the national team is essentially the only thing that brings that nation together. It's weird that the thing that brings the nation together might also be suffering from the deep entrenched divisions that plague the nation.
 

coremiller

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 14, 2005
4,080
A lot of what we hear from those covering Belgium is that the national team is essentially the only thing that brings that nation together. It's weird that the thing that brings the nation together might also be suffering from the deep entrenched divisions that plague the nation.
I wonder why, besides tradition, Belgium doesn't just field separate national teams for Flanders and Wallonia, the way the UK home nations do. Everything else in the country is divided on regional/linguistic lines. There really isn't much in the way of shared national identity in Belgium to hold the nation together.

Spain at least has a shared language (even where people speak Basque or Catalan, I think they are mostly bilingual and also speak Spanish) and a long history of political unity going back several hundred years. Belgium has neither.
 

Dummy Hoy

Angry Pissbum
SoSH Member
Jul 22, 2006
6,056
Falmouth
@BelgianSoxFan could explain better, but I think it's because there is such an attempt at creating national unity, which comes and goes.

And the team has been the one thing that has unified everyone the last handful of years, I was just speculating how deep some of the rifts are and wondering if their were cultural lines dividing people. It seems it's managerial lines dividing people.
 

Spacemans Bong

chapeau rose
SoSH Member
I went to Belgium last year and got a buttload of great Belgian beer for Father's Day, so I am a certified expert on all things Belgian.

Splitting the country into two teams that won't qualify for major tournaments is rash, getting rid of Wilmots seems like a much better idea. Somebody above nailed it, his tactics are throw on as many well-known stars as possible and cross his fingers. He won't play three at the back, even though no full backs makes it abundantly obvious that's what he should do, and insists on playing 4-3-3. His teams are ponderous even though they have a bunch of guys who can play fast, attacking football. He insists on playing Fellaini at 10, which is just barmy.

Plus, how the hell do you split the teams? A bunch of guys could play for both, a bunch of other guys aren't from where you'd guess - Thibault Courtois, Axel Witsel - and let's not even discuss how you divvy up Brussels, where Kompany, the Lukakus and Batshuayi are from. Those guys are gonna speak both languages.
 

coremiller

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 14, 2005
4,080
Well I wasn't proposing the idea to make the team better, but to make it more closely track the actual most strongly felt identities of the country's inhabitants, since I think regional identification is much stronger than national in Belgium. A combined UK team would obviously be stronger than any of the home nations separately, but nobody is interested in doing that. I don't think a distinct Flemish identity is any weaker than the Scottish or Welsh one. And full sovereignty isn't a prerequisite for FIFA/UEFA membership -- in addition to the Home Nations, there are the Faroe Islands and Gibraltar, and elsewhere in FIFA there's Hong Kong, Macau, Guam, and all the British Overseas Territories.

As for the dual loyalties issue, that doesn't seem like a problem to me. That happens all the time in the UK and with players from immigrant backgrounds (look at the Xhaka or Boateng families). If a player would be eligible for both regions, they get to choose. Brussels is traditionally considered a Francophone enclave and so I would probably lean toward including them with Wallonia, with Flemish Brusselaars having eligibility for both. The bigger problem would be what to do with the German-speaking Walloons, who don't fit into a simple two-way ethnolinguistic/regional schema.

I also think the split-up teams could qualify for tournaments, the expanded Euros at least. If Iceland and Northern Ireland and Albania can do it, Flanders and Wallonia could too.

Anyway, this is just a speculative parlor game. Carry on.
 

soxfan121

JAG
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 22, 2002
23,043
I'm in favor of any proposal that could some day lead to legit game thread posts of "Stupid Flanders."

 

BelgianSoxFan

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Nov 11, 2003
541
Los Gatos, CA
I posted it in the gamethread, but I am not aware of any region based rifts in the team. There are some in the country who would want to, but that is something different. The animosity between Flanders and the Walloons is similar as that between Texas and California in my view. We are not Croatia and Serbia. There is no religious component and culturally we have much more in common than what separates us, which is mostly language.

I am not a Flemish nationalist, but Brussels is historically Dutch speaking and is now majority French speaking. It is arguably one of the most diverse cities in the world right now, so I don't think it matters.

Wilmots is a buffoon, but he is not the only thing keeping this team from the cup. There are some excellent teams in the competition, if Lukaku and Origi don't butcher their chances against Italy we are talking differently now.

I am not a big Fellaini fan, but he can be a useful player. Both KdB and Hazard need to play. Just lile Bale and Ronaldo at Real. But unlike Real, we can't trade one. I think the backline of the Ireland game looked fine. Jordan Lukaku could spot Meunier, but Meunier had a great game. We will see what happens against Sweden. Ireland was not a good test.
 

sachmoney

Member
SoSH Member
Jun 14, 2008
9,513
Tim Thomas' Bunker
I agree that Wilmots needs to go. I was connecting the dots between the perceived divisions of the country and how fragmented the team was. Let's be honest. What Belgium needs is a strong manager who says "Hey, this is how we're going to play. We represent Belgium and we need to put aside differences. We need to work together. You might have a lesser role than your club, but this is for our country. You will have chances to rise to the occasion, but we need you to do this for us to reach our potential." Something like that, but I guess any good international manager would have to say or do those kinds of things. The whole stars thing just isn't working. You're getting less than the sum of your parts. It's embarrassing.

Also, for the record, I felt like people were pretty divided on a color basis when I was over in Belgium. This was from an outside who spent only 5 days there. I know others, specifically BelgianSoxFan is there every day and has a different view. I just saw what I saw. I didn't really have to speak any French/Flemish so I don't have a take on a language basis. A French guy I was talking to in Paris was talking about how Paris is much further along than Belgium. I agree from everything I saw. This is definitely an unfair comparison, but it definitely was different in Paris.
 

BelgianSoxFan

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Nov 11, 2003
541
Los Gatos, CA
It has been a long time since I lived in Belgium. But I grew up there, and speak the languages and go back often.
Yes Belgium has a long way to go integrating its' minorities. Brussels has many issues and is really a strange place.

Wilmots is the authoritarian, if anything it might be his biggest problem. I am not reading about any particular issues within the group. Maybe I am reading the wrong sources, but a lot of the players do seem to have a good relationship with each other. I am sure there are some who don't like each other, but they seem like a good group.
They lost to Italy, but they had opportunities to win. Italy is a good team.
 

Schnerres

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 28, 2009
1,516
Germany
I know Wilmots only from his playing days at Schalke. Everyone loved him, because he was a hell of a player, although he had limited skills. He was a huge fighter and won peoples´hearts with that style. I don´t know much about his coaching style, but it seems he doesn´t get any (or much) respect from the media.
After the first two goals, both Lukaku and Witsel both came over to shake hands with Wilmots, who definitely faced lots of pressure after the bad result vs.Italy. With a draw against Ireland, they would have faced elimination vs.Sweden (they´re still, but could be through when their match starts). I see it as a vote of confidence of the players to come over to the coach, a sign of unity. He might not be the best coach, but he might have formed a decent group out of the personalities.
 

Dummy Hoy

Angry Pissbum
SoSH Member
Jul 22, 2006
6,056
Falmouth
Lukaku was trying to get to his brother, Wilmots got in the way. Watch again, it's pretty funny. Witsel was going for Wilmots no doubt.

Wilmots deserves credit for bringing this group together and establishing an identity. He's tactically unimaginative and has in the past frozen in big games. There's too much talent for the KBVB to be waiting around for Wilmots to maybe figure it out.
 

Dummy Hoy

Angry Pissbum
SoSH Member
Jul 22, 2006
6,056
Falmouth
I'm bummed, but credit to Wales, and there are worse teams to lose to. That's a squad on a mission.

I'm very excited to see what Belgium can do in the next 4 year cycle with a manager who understands tactical football.
 

BelgianSoxFan

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Nov 11, 2003
541
Los Gatos, CA
A heartbreaking loss, but not a shocker as the defense was probably the worst in the tournament. There was no communication between them. In 2 years, Denaeyer and Lukaku could be a top notch half of the defense. They are really talented players, and incredibly young. They probably would have been fine if they only had to integrate one more new player, but 3 out of 4 defenders had very few real games together under their belt. And the games they had were probably as a sub.
That said with a bit of luck, they could have won. I don't think Mourinho could have made the defense work, but that said it was known for a few days that this would be the case. Their first 15 minutes were sparkling. They got nervous and let Wales in the game. Wilmots should have taken Lombaerts as his experience would have been important in this game. His biggest mistake was that he was too scared. There best chance was to win 4-3 and he tried to win 1-1 after penalties.
I thought they played offensively well together as a team, throughout the tournament. If anything, they passed too many times. Lukaku was not the stone cold killer he needs to be, but he is not why they lost.
At times, the offense completely disappeared, I think part of the plan was to move to a counter attacking team once they are ahead. They were really good at counters, but the professional fouling of Italy and Wales made that strategy unsuccessful in their losses. But that is part of the game.
Wales is a decent team which made the best of it. With 1 of Kompany, Vertonghen, Vermaelen or Lombaerts ready to play, Belgium wins handily I believe. I know what Wilmots tried to do with Fellaini, to steady the defense at the midfield. But they should have played a high press possession game instead like they did at the start. Wales would have scored, but so would the Belgians.
I would look to upgrade from Wilmots, but I don't think he is that bad that just anyone would be an upgrade. If Preudhomme wants the job, I give it to him. I would not like it as a Club fan, but he is a good coach.
 

Schnerres

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 28, 2009
1,516
Germany
I don´t think too high of Wilmots, but also I´m not too critical.
They were a small step from the Semis and could have faced Portugal who didn´t win a single match after 90mins yet. I wouldn´t say everything was bad and the coach has to leave.
They led Wales, they didn´t disappoint at the start. And after leading, I don´t know, but if they keep playing the counter like they did in earlier matches (Wales´hand was forced at least a little bit, after trailing), they win this match, IMO. So to me, this is more on the players than on the coach. Especially when you consider how their defense was made up. If everybody was on board, played bad and the team was outplayed from start til the end, ok. But to me that was a turn of the game and a learning experience for a super young team.
 

Dummy Hoy

Angry Pissbum
SoSH Member
Jul 22, 2006
6,056
Falmouth
team's not that young, although there is another group coming through.

Wilmots has had a four year cycle to show what he can do with a squad that, despite a few small holes, has top 5 in the world talent. There has been zero growth from the squad over those four years, a rigid adherence to one tactical system and certain players, and has lost the trust of most of the players and fans. Good guy, not a bad coach, not the guy to lead this collection of talent to the height of their possibility.
 

Schnerres

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 28, 2009
1,516
Germany
Considering it was the youngest starting lineup fielded at a Euros Game in 48 years, I would say those 11 players were young (and Vermaelen was the only rotation player aged 30+).
Wilmots may not make those players or the FA happy. Maybe they didn´t improve in the last 4 years im some peoples opinion (going from not-qualifying pre-Wilmots 2012 to WC quarters to Euro quarters is good - not great). They may dismiss him, because there´s not much of a system installed and not much balance in the team: too much offense and too little defense, we saw that again vs.Italy.
OTOH, you can make an argument for having creative players like Hazard, KDB play more free, open-minded than in a specific role (Hazard/Chelsea in 15/16) and the best time of this team and those players is still to come.
 

Dummy Hoy

Angry Pissbum
SoSH Member
Jul 22, 2006
6,056
Falmouth
It was the youngest because they were forced to start two 21 year olds on defense.

But, yes, a lot of <30 talent. It's so hard to know when football players peak though, you want to take advantage of every opportunity, and this Euros was a grand one that was possibly wasted because the coach wasn't up to the standard of th players.