Belgium’s development over the past decade has seen many tip them as potential victors in both the upcoming 2016 European Championships and the 2018 World Cup. With the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne to call up, there is no doubting that Belgium possess great talent but do they really have what it takes to compete with the biggest nations in the game?
During Belgium’s preparations for this tournament the focus has been on how Marc Wilmots would set up his team defensively. Injuries, starting with Vincent Kompany, have ravaged the defensive options at his disposal and while we have an idea of what he will do defensively, we are not certain. However, Belgium’s defense is not their only area of concern. Preventing goals is vital to success but to win championships you need to score goals and question marks remain about Belgium’s capabilities in that department.
Belgium topped their Qualification group and registered 24 goals from ten matches in doing so. This record saw them tied with Germany as the third highest goal scorers in the qualification process, not a bad record at all. However, a closer examination of their goal scoring prowess brings up an interesting fact. Of Belgium’s 24 goals scored, only a grand total of 4 were scored by strikers. Christian Benteke, Divock Origi, Michy Batshuayi and Laurent Depoitre (not selected) all managed to find the net on one occasion while Hazard and de Bruyne contributed five a piece.
This statistic should be truly worrying if you are a Belgium fan because it illustrates that nothing much has changed since the 2014 World Cup. Benteke missed out on that World Cup due to injury with Romelu Lukaku being the man entrusted to score the goals. While Belgium won all three of their group games, it was Origi who came off the bench to score their only goal from a forward. Lukaku was so porous he was dropped to the bench for the second round for Origi, although he did manage to repeat Origi’s trick of scoring after coming on in the round of 16 game vs the USA.
Romelu and Michy have both enjoyed good seasons for their respective clubs since then. However, their performances for their national team suggest that their development has reached a point where it should translate to international football. With the likelihood of Belgium building their team on the foundations of a make-shift defense, it’s clear that Belgium will need to maximise their goal scoring potential. With this contingent of strikers to choose from, should we really expect them to?