World Cup 2018 Preview: Belgium

The Red Devils return to the big stage aiming to improve on their run to the last eight in 2014. Everybody’s dark horse – now’s the time to deliver.

Nickname(s): De Rode Duivels (The Red Devils)

How they qualified: Belgium booked their place at the 2018 World Cup with four games to spare. A 2-1 win in Greece ensured they were guaranteed top spot in Group H. The Red Devils finished qualifying undefeated, capping off their campaign with a 9-0 home victory over Gibraltar.

Best Finish: 4th (1986)

Coach: Roberto Martinez

In charge since November 2016, Martinez achieved the honor of making Belgium the first UEFA nation to qualify for Russia 2018. A surprise appointment, the Spaniard’s perceived lack of tactical acumen has raised questions over the former-Everton boss’ ability to compete at the very highest level and whether he is an upgrade compared to Marc Wilmots. The man who led lowly Wigan Athletic to one of the most unlikely FA Cup triumphs of all time. also has Arsenal legend Thierry Henry for company in the manager’s dugout.

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Key Man: Eden Hazard

In a squad packed with talent, captain Eden Hazard is the standout player. Possessing electrifying pace and superb dribbling, Hazard can ghost past players and has the ability to change a game in a second. Hazard made his international debut in 2008, becoming the eighth-youngest player to play for Belgium. He was exceptional for Chelsea as they won the title last season, and his return to the side at the beginning of the 2017/2018 season kick-started the London club’s title defense. Moreover, he should be one of the top performers in Russia 2018.

Opening fixtures:

18 June vs Panama

23 June vs Tunisia

28 June vs England

Squad: TBD

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