Belgium Globalism The Cup never got off the ground as they couldn’t find the spark that would lead them to a third-place finish in 2018, and they spent much of their time navigating questions of infighting within the squad as they pulled away on Thursday.
Coach Roberto Martinez’s team wasted a number of chances to achieve the victory it needed against Croatia to advance from Group F, with striker Romelu Lukaku lacking the intensity of the match as they had to settle for a goalless draw and the third in the group.
Lukaku was frustrated and in tears at the final whistle after failing to convert from a few meters out on three separate occasions, and would likely gobble him up when fully fit.
One goal scored in three matches tells its own story, and while Belgium salvaged their best performance in the end, they would be frustrated by their lack of clinical touch.
It appears to be the end for a generation of players who promised so much, but the memories of this tournament will be of a fractured team unable to revive past performances.
Curiously, the senior players were not openly confident in their ability to lift the trophy, with captain Eden Hazard saying he believed their best chance of being crowned world champions was four years ago in Russia, and Kevin De Bruyne noting that the “golden generation” is now too. Old.
De Bruyne’s on-pitch brawl with defender Toby Alderweireld over tactics for the 1-0 win over Canada summed up Belgium’s time in Qatar and fueled the narrative that they were an unhappy camp.
It was a low end for a group of players who took the country to the top of the world rankings, but they have no silverware to show.
With 11 players in the squad over the age of 30, and a new World Cup tournament on the horizon, change is inevitable. Coach Roberto Martinez is yet to sign a new contract, with his current deal expiring soon.
A large number of players have failed to meet their usual standards, not least De Bruyne, whose poor form in the first two matches robbed them of their usual lead.
There were so many missing pieces of the puzzle for Belgium to succeed, and that will leave plenty of questions as they close the chapter on one of their all-time greatest teams.
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