They’re supposed to be the darkhorse, the outsiders. Sixth favourites, on the outside looking in at the top five (Germany, Brazil, Spain, France and Argentina) from which most expect the winner to come from, Belgium have something to prove after decades of underachievement. Why should we continue to give them the time of day?

Nobody denies the talent of the group. Previously handicapped by the tactical ineptitude of former stalwart attacking midfielder, Marc Wilmots, the Red Devils embark on another campaign with their golden generation poised as much as they’ll ever be to ruffle a few feathers.

Roberto Martinez has left Radja Nainggolan at home, but he’s managed to carry enough for the others to take notice.

Premier League All-Stars

A veritable collection of Premier league All Stars, the better group of Red Devils as unwillingly professed by star striker, Romelu Lukaku, are in Russia to break a few hearts. First, the Prem stars have to negotiate a group including, ironically, England. Both teams have lined up in warm-ups with a back three, an increasingly used formation in the English top flight. If they go that route, they could line up with the Tottenham Hotspur pair of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, and Vincent Kompany (with Dedryck Boyata lying in wait) of Man City in central defense with Yannick Carrasco and Thomas Meunier occupying the wing back spots. If only Kompany could stave off injury for two seconds, though.

Hazard Belgium world cup
Omar Othman of Saudi Arabia and Eden Hazard of Belgium during the International friendly match between Belgium and Saudi Arabia on March 27, 2018 in Brussel, Belgium. (Photo by Anthony Dibon/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

That plan may be scrapped for a central-heavy back four comprising Jordan Lukaku, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, and Meunier to protect the solid, if rarely spectacular, Thibaut Courtois of Chelsea. It’s further forward where the Belgians shine. Two thirds of the best trio of central midfielders in England could very well turn out. Kevin de Bruyne, the man to make things happen, and Mousa Dembele, the embodiment of graceful power, are nailed on starters  . Well, they should be. Any one of the obstacle, Marouane Fellaini, or Axel Witsel may sneak in if a midfield three is chosen to go along with a back four. Otherwise, KDB and Mousa, it is. That duo may very well be what proves decisive against England, who may match up better in attacking positions. Jordan Henderson, Fabian Delph (no matter what Pep has done to him) and Eric Dier aren’t putting the fear of God in anyone.