World Cup 2022: Where It All Went Wrong for Belgium’s De Bruyne, Lukaku, Hazard and Co

World Cup 2022: Where It All Went Wrong for Belgium’s De Bruyne, Lukaku, Hazard and Co

  • Belgium coach Roberto Martinez fumbled with his squad selections in their underwhelming World Cup campaign
  • The former Everton boss was not alive to the fact that his 2018 golden generation needed younger supplements
  • Belgium's dice was cast even before their first group stage game against Canada, where they struggled to keep up

Belgium's Golden Generation fell short of winning another major title with a shocking group stage exit at the Qatar World Cup.

Roberto Martinez's side were outclassed but survived against Canada, were embarrassed by Morocco, and then frustrated by Croatia.

Martinez has since resigned with nothing to show, save for the long periods Belgium were on top of the FIFA rankings.

Belgium, Roberto Martinez, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard
Roberto Martinez speaks to Eden Hazard during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group F match between Croatia and Belgium at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on December 1, 2022, in Doha, Qatar. Photo by Liu Lu.
Source: Getty Images

But before Qatar, the signs were on the wall. The Red Devils were not bringing a dominant team like in 2018.

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Four years ago, captain Eden Hazard was on top of his game. He was the best player in Russia, apart from Luka Modric. Romelu Lukaku was also a reliable source of goals upfront.

Martinez called up an ageing defence of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Toby Alderweireld, marshalled by another out-of-form player in Axel Witsel.

The decision to stick with the likes of Hazard, Lukaku and Dries Mertens is understandable because of experience, but he completely ignored the young in-form players.

Young players ignored

Leandro Trossard has been consistent in the English Premier League this season and could have been looked up to drive a fading engine. Martinez also refused to use an in-form Wout Faes, who has managed to run around his Leicester City career.

In Witsel's position, the coach failed to call Romeo Lavia and went with Amadou Onana and Youri Tielemans, who are also decent options. However, the latter was wrongly hooked off in their defeat to Canada.

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The Kevin De Bruyne no-show

Kevin De Bruyne was the player Martinez looked up to inspire his side, but the Spanish Head Coach has never found a proven working formula for KDB to thrive in his 3-4-3 formation.

De Bruyne has been blasted for being inefficient in Qatar, but a huge chunk of the blame lies with Martinez's inability to maximise his vast potential.

Martinez's stubbornness in refusing to adapt to his squad's rapid changes eventually cost him. Lack of squad unity is also a major factor, with De Bruyne particularly looking constantly out of place from his comments and body gestures on the pitch.

The strength of opponents, especially Morocco, should also not be understated but this is a tournament Martinez will look back on and probably feel he should have done better.

Time for the next coach to pick up the pieces and build a new generation. Or maybe this wasn't a golden generation, just a bunch of big football names.

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Crisis after Morocco defeat

Sports Brief also reported that Belgium's big stars have clashed in the dressing room and have made controversial remarks to the media.

Thibaut Courtois and De Bruyne haven't spoken in years. Fans online have claimed that the 'private reasons' mentioned involve De Bruyne's ex-girlfriend, Caroline Lijnen.

In 2014, Lijnen revealed she had cheated on KDB with his Belgium teammate Courtois. She claimed it was payback of sorts, after De Bruyne had admitted he had cheated on her with her best friend.