In the first World Cup 2018 semi-final in Saint Petersburg, Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ crashed out of the tournament to France. Going into the World Cup, Belgium were many pundits’ pick as dark horses. Belgium played well but a solitary Samuel Umtiti goal proved their undoing and Belgium’s golden generation can only get bronze now.
Belgium’s Golden Generation Fall at Penultimate Hurdle
England have tried and failed with their own so-called ‘golden generation’ at major tournaments and Belgium have often flattered to deceive. Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Vertonghen, Jan Alderweireld, Thibaut Courtois, Marouane Fellaini, Axel Witsel; players coveted by their own and other clubs. Only eight different teams have won the World Cup and 2018 presented Belgium with an opportunity to change all that. France, however, had their eyes firmly on the main prize also and it means that Belgium’s Golden Generation fall at the penultimate hurdle.
Lloris Proves His Worth
Hugo Lloris, the France captain, made a superb save in the quarter-final tie versus Uruguay. Against Belgium, he did it again. Tottenham team-mate Toby Alderweireld spun and fired a left-foot effort only to see Lloris make an incredible save. On 80 minutes, Witsel caught the ball beautifully but Lloris defied the the Belgians once more.
For goal-scoring scoring talent, Romelu Lukaku is a frustrating player to watch. When on form he can cause defences all sorts of problems. Against France, he looked lazy and sluggish. He was behind the pace of the game and gave the kind of performance that must give managers and fans alike nightmares. A ball from De Bruyne in the first half, granted it took a slight deflection, hit the Belgium striker and went harmlessly out of play for a goal kick. Another cross sailed past him. He was static. To be so ineffective in a such a huge game was almost scandalous.
Mbappe Shines Brightest
Kylian Mbappe is one of the hottest properties around right now. Against Belgium, he was fast; incredibly fast. Also, skilful, strong and almost unplayable. He took other players out of the game and Jan Vertonghen must have been scratching his head when he was put up against him. Vertonghen did well in fairness to the Tottenham player, but Mbappe changed flanks and his overall movement was too much for Belgium to cope with. As the football transfer window nears its conclusion, Mbappe will be a name on many a manager’s notepad right now. Only those with the most money will be able to afford this young star, though.
What Next For Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation?’
Belgium showed just what a team they can be in beating Brazil to reach this World Cup semi final. This game represented the best chance in a generation to become winners. So what next? This Belgium team may well still be unchanged in two years time for the European Championships but what about the next World Cup? Come 2022 in a hot Qatar, Hazard will be 31, Fellaini 34, Vertonghen 35, Alderweireld 34. Will the players of this ‘golden generation’ be able to go that one step further?
Time will tell but it is France who will now face either England or Croatia in Sunday’s showpiece final. For Belgium, only the bronze medal is the aim now and dreams of what might have been.