Cape Town – Belgium are no longer the world’s best-kept football secret. Despite being ranked number one in the world for many years, the Belgian ‘golden generation’ has flattered to deceive.
With such amazing talents like Kevin de Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Jan Vertonghen in their ranks, the Belgians have never gone on to win a major tournament with the quality of footballers at their disposal.
And they started the Qatar World Cup in indifferent fashion, winning 1-0 against Canada, but only after the Canadians had given them an almighty fright and could in fact have thrashed Roberto Martinez’s side on another day.
But maybe having more humble expectations in Qatar might well suit the Belgians, who while they are certainly not amongst the tournament favourites, are nevertheless an incredibly talented and hugely experienced squad.
The Belgian starting eleven at the World Cup are likely to have nearly 1000 international appearances between them when they take it, they know each other inside out and are a solid, high quality unit.
There is huge pedigree in the Belgian side all the way up the pitch, with one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Courtois their last line of defence, marshalled by the likes of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen in defence, Axel Witsel in midfield with the mercurial de Bruyne and Eden Hazard returning to full fitness, with Michy Batshuai tasked with getting their goals with Lukaku.
They are a different Belgian, but nevertheless a high-quality, dangerous one and they should be strong for Morocco, who were gutsy in drawing their opening World Cup game 0-0 with the experienced Croatia.
African sides again look as if they will find the going tough at the World Cup and the Moroccans’ game against Croatia while goalless was nevertheless an entertaining one with the enterprising Moroccans unlucky not to come away with a win.
The North Africans are one of the toughest sides to beat in world football, with Yassine Bounou in goal for them one of the top keepers in the world, while in Achrafe Hakimi and Hakim Ziyech they have genuinely world-class players in their ranks.
The Moroccans need a win, but they are likely to adopt the role of spoilers again and will make life difficult for the Belgians, who however should be able to unlock their defence in what is set to be another tight, tense affair.
Simphiwe Dludlu’s Prediction: Belgium 2 Morocco 1
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