Why Belgium’s poor performance is no real mystery

Look down a list of famous Belgians. Somewhere you’ll find detective Hercule Poirot. Now the character, created by Agatha Christie, was in the business of mystery solving.

Should Dame Agatha still be writing today, perhaps a new challenge for Poirot would be to manage the Belgium, who travel to Wembley on Saturday.

There doesn’t look to be much that needs to be solved with the side. In theory, there is plenty to admire about the team, especially if you comb through the squad.

In goal, 20-year-old Thibaut Courtois has had a magnificent season for Atlético Madrid whilst Simon Mignolet is a good Premier League goalkeeper.

Move into defence and there are four quality centre-backs to choose from. Captain Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen stand out as the best. The Ajax pairing of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld are not far behind whilst in the midfield, Steven Defour, Axel Witsel and Everton’s well-coiffed Marouane Fellaini are all solid options too.

Nip slightly further forward and you have Fulham’s skilful attacking midfielder Mousa Dembélé along with the summer transfer window’s most promiscuous player. Crucially though, Eden Hazard has the talent to match his mischief in flirting with every top club in the Premier League. (If ever there was a sign that players hold the power today…) Up front, there’s the burly 18-year-old Romelu Lukaku, a striker yet to be tested properly in England by Chelsea.

There is more talent in the Belgian squad to name but having gone through these players alone, it’s puzzling at how they’re not at the European Championships this year. As Inspector Poirot might notice though – football isn’t played on paper.

Belgium missed out on qualification for the Play-Off stage by two points with draws at home to Austria and away to Azerbaijan ultimately costing the Red Devils a chance to go to Poland and Ukraine. It is ten years since they last played in a major tournament.

Preventing progress is the lack of togetherness and stability. Marc Wilmots is occupying a caretaker role currently after Georges Leekens vacated the role midway through May. He was the country’s fifth different manager since the 2002 World Cup and he didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye with star player Eden Hazard either.

They’re also not helped by the nature of modern-day international football either. Long gone are the days when international squads were able to spend any meaningful length of time together. In 2012, club football rules as that’s where players spend the majority of their time. Most importantly, they’re also the ones who pay the wages meaning the loyalty to the club grows stronger.

This isn’t to say it will stop Belgium from improving as a national side. With the players in the squad, there is no reason why they can’t become a very good team. In the build-up to Saturday’s game with England, some in the media have explained what dangerous opposition they are.

However, it’s as if some members of the English press haven’t learnt lessons about their own country over the years. Even though expectations have been realistic for the upcoming European Championships, it must be appreciated that just because you have good players does not mean you are going to do well. Belgians don’t seem to suffer from the delusions of grandeur which have plagued England.

Belgium is not a nation renowned for its prowess in the sport. This might help them in the long term but they need to find a coach who can organise the talented group of players into a coherent formation and tame the likes of Eden Hazard.

That will be tricky. It’s perhaps a shame Hercule Poirot is unable to take over. It would probably be one of the simpler challenges for him as it’s not hard to see why things aren’t quite right for Belgium.

Article originally written @ Gone With The Rhind – For more football musings on Twitter, follow @archiert1