Take a look at those two XI’s and marvel at how Belgium, out of the loam of Europe’s paunchy midsection, has somehow become one of the most technically proficient, ruthlessly defensive and yet wonderfully light attacking teams on the planet almost overnight. And note that not included in the XI are world-class U18 wonderkids in Bakkali (PSV), Januzaj (Manchester United) and Eden Hazard’s little brother Thorgan. In another four years Belgium could have the deepest bench on earth.
Perhaps the most generous comparison to be made here is between Spain’s Iniesta-Xavi-Puyol generation that undergirded Spain’s otherworldly run both in Europe and at the World Cup. It would surprise no one if it was never duplicated. The talent level certainly bares out the link. But the one that seems to hold more water now (even as Belgium has yet to really climb for any substantive summits with this incredibly young nucleus) is Portugal and its Golden Generation. A cautionary tale.