Belgium World Cup Squad: Midfielders
Perhaps Belgium’s most talented group of players lie in their midfield. Many of these players will be well known to many of you and the chances are you will not learn anything you didn’t already know, it shows the strength of the squad that so many players ply their trade in Europe’s top leagues.
He’s probably the most important midfielder for Marc Wilmots. Witsel is one of Belgium’s key players who doesn’t stand in the spotlight too often; mainly because he plays in Russia at Zenit Saint-Petersburg but also because he’s one of the most secure and efficient defending midfielders in Europe. It’s about time that Witsel gets a place in one of Europe’s best teams.
Axel Witsel’s good bond with Steven Defour and Marouane Fellaini, who all played together during their period with Standard Liège, is a good thing for Belgium. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and don’t need words to let each other know where the other will be on the pitch when they have the ball.
Witsel is certain of his spot in Belgium’s starting eleven, if he stays fit he will probably play every minute of Belgium’s campaign in Brazil as he did in qualifying.. Marc Wilmots needs Axel Witsel for keeping the calm in his team, he’s Belgium’s engine and his form will have a big impact on how Belgium fare.
Nacer Chadli is Belgium’s joker in midfield at the World Cup. Marc Wilmots is not only a very big fan of the attacking midfielder but he believes that Chadli will have a great career once he get more playing time with Tottenham. Chadli is one of the many Belgian players who moved at a young age to the Netherlands.
His versatility is one of his biggest weapons. He can play at every attacking position in midfield. Dribbling, passing, defending it doesn’t matter for Chadli as long as he can help his team. His last weeks with Tottenham in the Premier League have given him a lot of confidence.
Although Marc Wilmots is a big fan of Chadli he probably won’t gather a lot of playing time at the World Cup. However he is one of those players who could be important for his country when coming of the bench, as it’s not just eleven men who are required in a World Cup campaign but also the substitutes who can make or break a team. What Dries Mertens is for Belgium’s front line is what Nacer Chadli for Wilmots’ midfield.
Kevin De Bruyne
Belgium’s best player during the qualification campaign. Scoring goals and providing assists, nothing was too much for the talented midfielder. Marc Wilmots knows what De Bruyne is capable of and never doubted him when he languished at Chelsea in their reserve side. His period with Chelsea made him mentally stronger, his move to Wolfsburg made him feel better again.
Kevin De Bruyne was Belgium’s right winger during qualification; he was Belgium’s playmaker from the flanks and shone in almost every match. People weren’t talking about Eden Hazard after Belgium’s matches, instead it was all about De Bruyne; his crosses are probably some of the best I’ve ever seen, his passing is accurate, he has a great shooting technique and one of his most underestimated weapons is his dribbling. I’m sure that Chelsea will regret selling Kevin De Bruyne because he’s set for a bright future in European football.
Wilmots will certainly give a lot of playing time to De Bruyne and he’s invaluable if Belgium want to go far in Brazil. They must hope that De Bruyne maintains his good qualification form into the tournament and that together with an excellent Eden Hazard could take Belgium far at the World Cup.
Steven Defour managed to convince Marc Wilmots in the last matches of qualifcation, it was together with Kevin De Bruyne that Defour became one of Belgium’s best players during the arduous task of qualifying. Radja Nainggolan had a fantastic season with AS Roma while Steven Defour sat on the bench a lot for FC Porto and Steven Defour certainly felt Nainggolan’s breath on his neck but ultimately it only encouraged the former Standard Liège player to do even better.
Defour is one of the hardest working players in the Belgium squad. Marc Wilmots often gives him the task to keep a key opposition player out of the match and believe me, there are not many midfielders who can fulfil that task like Defour can.
The midfielder isn’t sure about his future yet, he will surely be eager to prove that he’s worth his place at FC Porto or at another big club in Europe with a good display at the World Cup. He can’t afford another wasted season like the one just gone especially when you consider how close he was losing his place in the squad. Nainggolan will continue to improve at AS Roma, and Junior Malanda is young and hungry and playing in the Bundesliga of Germany with Wolfsburg so will surely become a national team contender soon.
By far the most elegant midfielder of the Belgium squad. Dembélé had a lot of niggling injuries this season which meant he could never really convince at Tottenham. This World Cup could give him a positive boost again, gaining confidence is everything for him.
Dembélé has been transformed from an attacker to a deep lying central midfielder over the last years. At AZ he stole the heart of every Eredivisie fan with his flair, dribbles and being at one with the ball it made him one of the biggest talents in the league. His move to the Premier League went well and he did amazing with Fulham. His move to Tottenham has proved a bit more difficult but we are sure that Premier League fans haven’t seen the best of Dembélé yet.
We’ll have to wait and see how Marc Wilmots will play to say if he will get a lot of playing time in Brazil. The Belgium coach experimented a lot lately due to injuries and Kevin De Bruyne’s great form. Dembélé will probably battle with Steven Defour for that number 8 spot in Belgium’s team.
Marouane Fellaini probably wants to forget his first season with Manchester United as soon as possible. The box-to-box midfielder told the Belgian media that what happened this season with Manchester United wouldn’t have any influence on his performances with the national team, “it’s something totally different and I don’t have to prove myself against anyone,” he said.
Fellaini is another favourite of Marc Wilmots. He is an unique midfielder in European football, he’s very strong, often unbeatable in aerial duels but also good with his feet despite what most people – especially Manchester United fans – might think. You could argue if Fellaini is a player for Manchester United then he should be a definite starter for the national team but the Fellaini of the last few months is only a shadow of his former self, he’s capable of being an important player for a big club but if he will ever be for Manchester United, that’s another question entirely.
Fellaini certainly will get playing time at the World Cup in Brazil because Marc Wilmots likes to adjust things according to his opponent. He tries to eliminate his opponent’s best player or tries to abuse their weaknesses and Maroune Fellaini will be his key player for that last part, regardless of what it is, such is his versatility.