Red hot devils need to deliver

Bookmakers have ranked Belgium as the fifth favourite to lift the World Cup, right behind host Brazil and former champions Argentina, Germany and Spain. Former French international and World Cup-winner Marcel Desailly has even predicated a run to the finals for the Red Devils. Belgium started the World Cup qualifying campaign ranked outside the top-50, but is now ranked 11 in the world and had reached a high of five in October 2013. An exciting bunch of young and talented footballers, ably managed by Marc Wilmot, is ready to make a mark at the world stage. As many as 11 players of the squad play in the highly competitive EPL and the country has the third most expensive squad in Brazil, after the host and Portugal.

With Atletico Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois under the bar, captain Vincent Kompany (Manchester City) shoring up the defence and the dazzling skills of Eden Hazard (Chelsea) in the midfield, alongside the predatory instincts of Romelu Lukaku (Everton) upfront, Belgium has the necessary depth in squad to steamroll any opponent.

The strength of the squad goes beyond the mere starting-XI and with an average age in the mid-20s, Belgium is certainly the fancied team in Group H and is expected to progress further in the tournament.

In the World Cup qualifiers, Belgium went undefeated, winning eight out of its 10 matches, though, surprisingly dropping points at home to Serbia and Wales. The team’s authoritative away wins came in Serbia and Croatia, as the defence kept a clean slate in six matches, conceding only four goals.

But results in the recent friendlies have been far from satisfying. Belgium lost 0-2 to Colombia and 2-3 against Japan and wasted a two-goal lead, to share honours with Ivory Coast (2-2). A 5-0 hammering of Luxembourg thereafter has soothed the frayed nerves but the young team will need to find a way to enjoy this pressure and live up to its billing as a strong title contender.