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Belgium national football team

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This article is about the men's team. For the women's team, see Belgium women's national football team.
Belgium
Shirt badge/Association crest
Nickname(s) De Rode Duivels
Les Diables Rouges
Die Roten Teufel
(The Red Devils)
Association Royal Belgian Football Association (KBVB/URBSFA/KBFV)[A]
Confederation UEFA (Europe)
Head coach Roberto Martínez
Captain Eden Hazard
Most caps Jan Ceulemans (96)
Top scorer Bernard Voorhoof and
Paul Van Himst (30)
Home stadium King Baudouin Stadium
FIFA code BEL
First colours
Second colours
FIFA ranking
Current 5 Decrease 1 (24 November 2016[2])
Highest 1 (November 2015 – March 2016[2])
Lowest 71 (June 2007[2])
Elo ranking
Current 13 Steady (1 December 2016[3])
Highest 2 (September 1920[4])
Lowest 74 (September 2009[4])
First international
 Belgium 3–3 France 
(Uccle, Belgium; 1 May 1904)
Biggest win
 Belgium 9–0 Zambia 
(Brussels, Belgium; 4 June 1994)
 Belgium 10–1 San Marino 
(Brussels, Belgium; 28 February 2001)
Biggest defeat
England England Amateurs 11–2 Belgium 
(London, England; 17 April 1909)[B]
World Cup
Appearances 12 (first in 1930)
Best result Fourth place, 1986
European Championship
Appearances 5 (first in 1972)
Best result Runners-up, 1980

The Belgian national football team has officially represented Belgium in association football since their maiden match in 1904. The squad is under the global jurisdiction of FIFA and is governed in Europe by UEFA—both of which were co-founded by the Belgian team's supervising body, the Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA). Periods of regular Belgian representation at the highest international level, from 1920 to 1938, and 1970 to 2002, have alternated with mostly unsuccessful qualification rounds. Most of Belgium's home games are played at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.

Belgium's national team has participated in three quadrennial major football competitions. It appeared in the end stages of twelve FIFA World Cups and five UEFA European Football Championships, and featured at three Olympic football tournaments, including the 1920 Olympic tournament which they won. Other notable performances are victories over four reigning world champions—West Germany, Brazil, Argentina and France—between 1954 and 2002. Belgium has long-standing football rivalries with its Dutch and French counterparts, having played both teams nearly every year from 1905 to 1967. The squad has been known as the Red Devils since 1906; its fan club is named "1895".

During the national player career of forward Paul Van Himst, the most-praised Belgian footballer of the 20th century, Belgium took third place at Euro 1972. After that, they experienced two golden ages with many gifted players. In the first period, which lasted from the 1980s to the early 1990s, the team finished as runners-up at Euro 1980 and fourth in the 1986 World Cup. In the second, under guidance of Marc Wilmots in the 2010s, Belgium topped the FIFA World Rankings for the first time in November 2015.

History[edit]

Belgium was one of the first mainland European countries to play association football.[6] Its practice in Belgium began on 26 October 1863, after an Irish student walked into the Josephites College of Melle with a leather ball.[7] Initially an elitist pastime,[8] during the following decades association football supplanted rugby as Belgium's most popular football sport.[9] On 1 September 1895, ten clubs for football, athletics, cricket and cycling founded the Belgian sports board Union Belge des Sociétés de Sports Athlétiques (UBSSA);[9][10] a year later UBSSA organised the first annual league in Belgian football.[9]

Football team in uniform
The first Belgium A-squad in 1901 featured four Englishmen.

On 11 October 1900, Beerschot AC honorary president Jorge Díaz announced that Antwerp would host a series of challenge matches between Europe's best football teams.[11] After some organisational problems, on 28 April 1901, Beerschot's pitch hosted its first tournament, in which a Belgian A-squad and a Dutch B-team contested the Coupe Vanden Abeele.[12][13] Belgium won,[14] and beat the Netherlands in all three follow-up games;[15] FIFA does not recognise these results because Belgium fielded some English players.[16] On 1 May 1904, the Belgians played their first official game, against France at the Stade du Vivier d'Oie in Uccle; their draw left the Évence Coppée Trophy unclaimed.[17] Twenty days later, the football boards of both countries were among the seven FIFA founders.[18][19] At that time, the Belgian squad was chosen by a committee drawn from the country's six or seven major clubs.[20] In 1906, the national team players received the nickname Red Devils because of their red jerseys,[21] and four years later, Scottish ex-footballer William Maxwell replaced the UBSSA committee as their manager.[22] From 1912, UBSSA governed football only and was renamed UBSFA.[C][1][9] During the Great War, the national team only played unrecognised friendlies, with games in and against France.[23][24]

At the 1920 Summer Olympics, in their first official Olympic appearance, the Red Devils won the gold medal on home soil after a controversial final in which their Czechoslovak opponents left the pitch.[25] This triumph led them to an all-time high second place in the World Football Elo Ratings.[4] In the three 1920s Summer Olympics, they achieved fair results (four wins in seven games), and played their first intercontinental match, against Argentina.[23] Over the following decade, however, Belgium lost all of their matches at the first three FIFA World Cup final tournaments.[23] According to historian Richard Henshaw, "The growth of [football] in Scandinavia, Central Europe, and South America left Belgium far behind".[26] Although World War II hindered international football events in the 1940s, the Belgian team remained active with unofficial matches against Dutch and British selections.[27][28]

A successful penalty kick, seen from the back of the net
In the 1920 Olympic football final at the Olympisch Stadion in Antwerp, Robert Coppée scored for Belgium with a penalty kick.

Belgium qualified for only one of eight major tournaments during the 1950s and the 1960s: the 1954 World Cup. The day before the tournament began, the RBFA was among the three UEFA founders.[29] According to journalist Henry Guldemont, some of his Swiss colleagues regarded the 1954 Belgian team as "favourites for the world title" after a promising draw in the opener against England.[30][31] However, they were eliminated after a loss to Italy in the second (and last) group match.[32] Two bright spots in these decades were wins against World Cup holders: West Germany in 1954, and Brazil in 1963.[23] Between these, Belgium defeated Hungary's Golden Team in 1956.[23] The combination of failure in competitive games, and success in exhibition matches, gave the Belgians the mock title of "world champion of the friendlies".[33][34]

The team's performance improved during the early 1970s, under manager Raymond Goethals. Fully dressed in white, as the White Devils,[35] Belgium had their first victories at World and European Championships at the 1970 World Cup and Euro 1972.[36][37] En route to that Euro appearance, their first, they eliminated reigning European champions Italy by winning the two-legged play-offs on aggregate. At the end stage, they finished third by winning the consolation match against Hungary.[37] In 1973, the denial of a match-winning goal in their last 1974 World Cup qualifier cost Belgium their appearance at the finals,[38] causing Belgium to become the only nation ever to miss a World Cup final round despite not allowing a goal during the qualifiers.[39] The next two attempts to reach a major finals were also fruitless.[40][41]

Beginning with a second-place finish at Euro 1980,[42] the 1980s and the early 1990s are generally considered as Belgium's first golden age.[43] Coached by Guy Thys, they achieved their spot in the 1980 final with an unbeaten record in the group phase; in the final, they narrowly lost the title to West Germany with the score 1–2.[42] Starting with the 1982 World Cup, and ending with the 2002 World Cup, the national team qualified for six consecutive World Cup end stages and mostly progressed to the second round.[44] During this period, managers Guy Thys, Paul Van Himst and Robert Waseige each guided a Belgian selection past the first round.[45][46][47] In addition to receiving individual FIFA recognitions,[48][49] the team reached the semi-finals of the 1986 World Cup.[50] After reaching the Euro 1980 final, they were unsuccessful at subsequent European Championships, with early exits from their appearances at Euro 1984 and Euro 2000.[51][52] During the late 1990s, they played three friendly tournaments in Morocco, Cyprus and Japan,[53][54] sharing the 1999 Kirin Cup with Peru in the latter.[55] The greatest talents of the Belgian team during this golden age were retired from international football by 2000,[56] yet in 2002, Belgium defeated reigning world and European champions France,[23] and reached the World Cup round of 16.[47]

Belgian defender maneuvering around the Algerian goal
Belgium (in red) playing Algeria at the Mineirão in the 2014 World Cup

After the 2002 World Cup, the team weakened with the loss of more veterans and coach Waseige.[57][58] They missed out five successive major finals from Euro 2004 until Euro 2012, and went through an equal number of head coaches.[59] A 2005 win over reigning European champions Greece meant nothing but a small comfort.[23] In between, a promising new generation was maturing at the 2007 European U-21 Championship; Belgium's squad qualified for the following year's Summer Olympics in Beijing,[60] where the Young Red Devils squad finished fourth.[61] Seventeen of them appeared in the senior national team,[56] albeit without making an immediate impact. Belgium finished in second (and last) place at the Kirin Cup in May 2009,[62] and lost against the 125th FIFA-ranked Armenian team in September 2009.[2] After Georges Leekens' second stint as national manager,[63][64] his assistant Marc Wilmots became the caretaker in May 2012.[65]

After two matches as interim coach, Wilmots agreed to replace Leekens as manager.[66] Following his appointment, the team's results improved,[67] such that some foreign media regarded it as another Belgian golden generation.[68][69][70] The young Belgian squad qualified as unbeaten group winners for the 2014 World Cup finals,[71] and earned Belgium's second-ever place in a World Cup quarter-finals with a four-game winning streak.[72] Belgium qualified for Euro 2016 with a match to spare in October 2015,[73] and took the top spot in the FIFA World Rankings for the first time in November 2015,[74] to stay first for five months.[2][75] In the following year, Belgium could not confirm their role as outsider at the European Championship with a quarter-final elimination by the 26th FIFA-ranked Welsh team;[2][76] this prompted the RBFA to dismiss Wilmots.[77] In the 2018 World Cup qualifying allocation, they were seeded first in their group.[78][79]

Kit[edit]

Team photo on the pitch
Team emblem: a gold lion on a black shield background
Traditional red jersey worn by the Euro 1980 runners-up, and the stylised lion emblem (1948–80)

In home matches, the team's outfield players traditionally wear the colours of the Belgian flag: black, yellow and red.[80][81][82] Red dominates the strip and is often the sole jersey colour.[81][82] The away colours are usually white, black or both;[83] in 2014, the squad introduced a third, yellow kit.[84] Their shirts are often trimmed with tricolores at the margins.[82][85] Since 1981, the RBFA emblem has been the national team's badge;[82][86] the previous badge was a yellow lion on a black shield,[81][82] similar to the escutcheon of the national coat of arms.[87]

For their first unofficial match in 1901, the Belgian team wore white jerseys with tricoloured bands on the upper arms.[12] Around their third unofficial game in 1902, the choice was made for a "shirt with national colours ... [that would indicate,] with a stripe, the number of times every player has participated in an encounter".[14] Since 1904, Belgium's classic all-red jersey design has been altered twice. In 1904–05, the squad briefly wore satin shirts with three horizontal bands in red, yellow and black; according to sports journalist Victor Boin, the shirts set "the ugliness record".[20] During the 1970s, manager Raymond Goethals chose an all-white combination to improve the team's visibility during evening matches.[35][88]

Six clothing manufacturers have supplied the official team strip. Since 2014, it has been produced by Adidas,[89] who was also the supplier from 1974 to 1980, and from 1982 to 1991.[90] Former kit manufacturers are Umbro (early 1970s),[88][90] Admiral (1981–1982),[D][90] Diadora (1992–1999),[90] Nike (1999–2010) and BURRDA (2010–2014).[E][90][92]

Home stadium[edit]

Aerial photo of packed stadium
Stadium interior, photographed from the grandstand
The national stadium at the Heysel Plateau in 1935 (left) and in 2013

Numerous former and current venues in 11 urban areas have hosted Belgium's home games.[23] Most of these matches have been played in Brussels at the Heysel Plateau, on the site of the present-day King Baudouin Stadium—a multipurpose facility with a seating capacity of 50,122.[93] Its field also hosts the team's final training sessions before domestic games. Since 2007, most physical preparation takes place at the National Football Centre in Tubize,[94] or at Anderlecht's training ground in the Neerpede quarter.[95][96] Apart from Belgian home friendlies, at the international level Belgium's national stadium has also hosted six European Championship games.[97][98]

In 1930, for the country's centennial, the venue was inaugurated as the Jubilee Stadium with an unofficial match between Belgium and the Netherlands.[99] At that time, the stadium had a capacity of 75,000.[100] In 1946, it was renamed Heysel Stadium after its city quarter. This new name became associated with the tragedy preceding the 1985 European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool; 39 spectators died after riots in the then antiquated building.[101][102] Three years after the disaster, plans were unveiled for a renovation;[103] in 1995, after two years of work, the modernised stadium was named after the late King Baudouin.[104] In May 2013, the Brussels-Capital Region announced that the King Baudouin Stadium would be replaced by Eurostadium, elsewhere on the Heysel Plateau;[105] two years later, a 2019 date was set for the stadium's completion.[106]

Team image[edit]

Media coverage[edit]

Journalist, seated in the stands and speaking into a microphone
Gust De Muynck's live coverage during Belgium–Netherlands in 1931

The first live coverage of a Belgian sporting event occurred on 3 May 1931, when journalist Gust De Muynck commentated on the international football game between Belgium and the Netherlands on radio.[107] Later, football broadcasts were also televised. As 60 per cent of Belgians speak Dutch and 40 per cent French,[108] commentaries for the national team matches are provided in both languages. The games are not broadcast in German—Belgium's third official language.[108] During Belgium's tournament appearances in the 1980s and the early 1990s, Rik De Saedeleer crowned himself the nation's most famous football commentator with his emotional and humorous reports.[109]

Initially the matches were transmitted mainly on public television channels: the former BRTN in Dutch, and the RTBF in French. Since 1994, commercial channels such as vtm and its sister channel Kanaal 2, and VIER in Flanders, have purchased broadcasting rights.[1] As of November 2016, the Euro 2016 round-of-16 match against Hungary was the most-watched programme in Belgian television history, with an audience of over four million viewers out of 11.3 million Belgian citizens.[108][110][111]

In April 2014, the VRT started transmitting a nine-piece, behind-the-scenes documentary about the national team filmed during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, titled Iedereen Duivel (Everybody Devil).[112] Cable broadband provider Telenet broadcast an eight-part documentary about individual players titled Rode Helden (Red Heroes).[113]

Side activities[edit]

Multiple events were organised for the fans during the squad's peak popularity in the 2010s. During the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, a string of interactive events called the Devil Challenges were organised.[114] The premise was that small groups of international players would do a favour in return for each of the five comprehensive chores their supporters completed ("colour Belgium red", "gather 500,000 decibels", etc.), all of which were accomplished.[115] In June 2013, the Belgian national team's first ever Fan Day attracted over 20,000 supporters;[116] a second was held after the 2014 World Cup.[117] On the days of Belgium's 2014 World Cup group matches, large dance events titled Dance with the Devils (a pun on the title of a 2001 D-Devils' trance album)[118] took place in three Belgian cities.[119] This type of happening was repeated during Belgium's Euro 2016 group matches.[120]

Occasionally, the Belgian team directly supported charity. Between 1914 and 1941 they played at minimum five unofficial games of which the returns were for charitable purposes: two against France,[24][121] and three against the Netherlands.[99][122] In mid-1986, when the Belgian delegation reached the Mexico World Cup semi-finals, the squad started a project titled Casa Hogar, an idea of delegation leader Michel D'Hooghe.[123] Casa Hogar is a home for street children in the Mexican industrial city of Toluca, to which the footballers donated part of their tournament bonuses.[124] In August 2013, the national team supported four social projects through the charity fund Football+ Foundation, by playing an A-match with a plus sign on the shoulders of their jerseys and auctioning the shirts.[125]

In 2002, the national squad held its first anti-racism campaign in which they posed with slogans.[126] A home Euro 2012 qualifier was given the theme of respect for diversity in 2010; this UEFA-supported action was part of the European FARE Action Week.[127] Ex-Red Devil Dimitri Mbuyu—the first black Belgium player (in 1987)[56][128]—was engaged as godfather, and other foreign, current, and former footballers who played in the Belgian top division participated.[129]

[edit]

After a 1905 match, a Dutch reporter wrote that three Belgian footballers "work[ed] as devils".[130] A year later Léopold FC manager Pierre Walckiers nicknamed the players Red Devils, inspired by their jersey colour, and the achievement of three successive victories in 1906.[21][23] Because of their white home shirts in the 1970s, they were temporarily known as the White Devils.[35] Since 2012, the team logo is a red trident (or three-pronged pitchfork),[131] an item that is often associated with the devil.[132] Before that, the national squad had three official anthropomorphous mascots. The first was a lion in team kit named Diabolix,[133] a reference to the central symbol in the Belgian coat of arms that appeared on the team jerseys from 1905 to 1980.[82][134] In accordance with their epithet, the next mascots were a red super-devil and a fan-made modern devil.[133]

Supporters[edit]

"Cycling is the traditional national sport of Belgium, but soccer is the most popular."

—Historian Richard Henshaw, 1979[9]

Fans of the Belgian national team display the country's tricolour national flag, usually with an emphasis on the red element. In 2012, local supporter clubs merged into one large Belgian federation named "1895" after the foundation year of the RBFA. One year later, 1895 had 24,000 members.[135] The nationwide interest in the football squad has also been reflected by the occasional presence of Belgian monarchs at their matches since 1914.[136][137][138] One of the greatest moments for the Belgian team and their 12th man was in mid-1986 when the Belgian delegation at the Mexico World Cup received a warm "welcome home". When the World Cup semi-finalists appeared on the balcony of Brussels Town Hall, the adjoining Grand Place square was filled with an ecstatic crowd that cheered as though their squad had won a major tournament.[139]

Number 1895 in red and bold, with the digit 9 carrying devil's horns and tail
Logo of the national fan federation

The team's deterioration after the 2002 World Cup lead to their absence from the end stages of the next five major tournaments, and strained their popularity. Between 2004 and 2010, local journalists called the Belgian footballing nation "mortally ill".[140][141] Some fans continued to support their squad in bad times. Ludo Rollenberg was one of the most loyal fans attending the team's games worldwide since 1990, missing only the Japanese Kirin Cup in 1999, and two other matches by 2006.[142] He was the only supporter to attend their game in Armenia in 2009.[143]

Just before the kick-off of a 2014 World Cup home qualifier, Belgium's footballers saw a first tifo banner, sized 10.5 by 11.5 metres (34 by 38 ft) depicting a devil in the national colours.[144] The presence of many Belgian players in top leagues abroad, such as the Premier League,[145] and promising results under Marc Wilmots, increased fans' enthusiasm and belief in a successful World Cup campaign.[116][146] Because of this popularity peak, two Belgian monuments were decorated in national colours for the 2014 FIFA World Cup event; the Manneken Pis statue received a child-sized version of the new Belgian uniform,[147] and facets of the Atomium's upper sphere were covered in black, yellow and red vinyl.[148]

Rivalries[edit]

Match phase with two outfield players from each side
Illustration of a Netherlands–Belgium cup match at Rotterdam's Schuttersveld pitch in 1905

Belgium's main football rivals are its neighbours the Netherlands and France, with which it shares close cultural and political relations.[149][150] The matchup between the Belgian and Dutch team is known as the Low Countries derby;[99] as of November 2016 they have played each other in 126 official games.[151] The clash between the Belgian and French sides is nicknamed le Match Sympathique in French ("the Friendly Match");[152] they have contested 73 official games as of November 2016.[151]

Belgium won the first four—unofficial—matches against the Netherlands,[14][153] but lost their first FIFA-recognised contest.[23] The two national teams played each other biannually between 1905 and 1964, except during the World Wars.[23] They have met 18 times in major tournament campaigns, and have played at least 35 friendly cup matches: in Belgium for the Coupe Vanden Abeele, and in the Netherlands for the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad-Beker.[13][130] The overall balance favours the Netherlands, with 55 wins against 41 Belgian victories.[151] The Low Countries' squads co-operated in fundraising initiatives between 1925 and 1941; they played five unofficial games for charity, FIFA and the Belgian Olympic Committee.[99][122][154]

The first match between Belgium and France, the Évence Coppée Trophy played in 1904, was the first official game for both teams and the first official football match between independent countries on the European continent.[155] Until 1967, the sides met almost annually.[23] As of November 2016, France has played most often against Belgium in international football.[151] Belgium have the better record, with 30 wins to France's 24.[151]

Management[edit]

For more details on this topic, see List of Belgium national football team managers.
Portrait of a seriously-looking shaved man in coat
Roberto Martínez, Belgium's current head coach (since 2016)

Since 1904, the RBFA, 24 permanent managers and two caretaker managers have officially been in charge of the national team;[F][22][59] this includes one national footballer selector.[22] As of November 2016, a crew of over 20 RBFA employees guides the player group,[158] including their Spanish manager Roberto Martínez, his assistants Graeme Jones and Thierry Henry, and goalkeeping coaches Erwin Lemmens and Iñaki Bergara.[159][160] As of 13 November 2016, Marc Wilmots is statistically the best performing Belgium manager with an average of 2.18 points per match.[G] Under him, Belgium reached the top FIFA ranking spot in 2015, which earned him the title of Best Coach of the Year at the 2015 Globe Soccer Awards.[161] Under Guy Thys, the squad achieved record results at World and European championships; World Soccer magazine accordingly proclaimed him Manager of the Year in 1986.[162]

Rather than developing innovative team formations or styles of play, Belgium's managers applied conventional tactics. At the three 1930s World Cups, the Red Devils were aligned in a contemporary 2–3–5 "pyramid".[163][164][165] In 1954, Doug Livingstone's squad played in a 3–2–5 "WM" arrangement during World Cup matches.[32] Throughout most of their tournament games in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, the team played in a 4–4–2 formation.[36][45][46] Since Raymond Goethals' stint in the 1970s, a key strength of the Belgian squad has been their systematic use of the offside trap,[166] a defensive tactic that was already intensively applied in the 1960s by Anderlecht coach Pierre Sinibaldi.[167] According to football journalist Wim De Bock, "master tactician" Goethals represented the "conservative, defensive football of the Belgian national team"; he added that in the 1970s, the contrast between the Belgian playing style and the Total Football of their Dutch rivals "could not be bigger".[168]

In an attempt to win a game at the 1998 World Cup, Georges Leekens chose a 4–3–3 arrangement for Belgium's second and third group matches.[169] Robert Waseige, Belgium coach around 2000, said that "above all, [his] 4–4–2 system [was] holy", in the sense that he left good attackers on the bench to keep his favourite formation.[170] Wilmots opted for the 4–3–3 line-up again,[171] with the intention of showing dominant football against any country.[172]

Players[edit]

Current[edit]

The following 23 players were convocated for the friendly against the Netherlands and the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Estonia, on 9 and 11 November respectively,[173] and were able to play in the latter.[174] Leander Dendoncker was called up to replace the injuries of Moussa Dembélé and Vincent Kompany.[175] Following the injury of Christian Kabasele, Timmy Simons was called up to replace him.[176] Note that the RBFA lists all wingers as forwards.

Caps and goals are correct as of 13 November 2016 after the game against Estonia;[177] only FIFA-recognised matches are included.[H]

0#0 Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club
1 1GK Thibaut Courtois (1992-05-11) 11 May 1992 (age 24) 47 0 England Chelsea
12 1GK Simon Mignolet (1988-03-06) 6 March 1988 (age 28) 17 0 England Liverpool
13 1GK Matz Sels (1992-02-26) 26 February 1992 (age 24) 0 0 England Newcastle United

2 2DF Luis Pedro Cavanda (1991-01-02) 2 January 1991 (age 25) 2 0 Turkey Galatasaray
3 2DF Timmy Simons (1976-12-11) 11 December 1976 (age 39) 94 6 Belgium Club Brugge
5 2DF Jan Vertonghen (3rd captain[179]) (1987-04-24) 24 April 1987 (age 29) 87 6 England Tottenham Hotspur
15 2DF Thomas Meunier (1991-09-12) 12 September 1991 (age 25) 15 1 France Paris Saint-Germain
19 2DF Thomas Foket (1994-09-25) 25 September 1994 (age 22) 1 0 Belgium Gent
23 2DF Laurent Ciman (1985-08-05) 5 August 1985 (age 31) 16 1 Canada Montreal Impact

4 3MF Leander Dendoncker (1995-04-15) 15 April 1995 (age 21) 2 0 Belgium Anderlecht
6 3MF Axel Witsel (1989-01-12) 12 January 1989 (age 27) 78 8 Russia Zenit Saint Petersburg
7 3MF Kevin De Bruyne (1991-06-28) 28 June 1991 (age 25) 48 12 England Manchester City
8 3MF Youri Tielemans (1997-05-07) 7 May 1997 (age 19) 2 0 Belgium Anderlecht
16 3MF Steven Defour (1988-04-15) 15 April 1988 (age 28) 49 2 England Burnley

9 4FW Romelu Lukaku (1993-05-13) 13 May 1993 (age 23) 54 19 England Everton
10 4FW Eden Hazard (vice-captain[179]) (1991-01-07) 7 January 1991 (age 25) 76 17 England Chelsea
11 4FW Kevin Mirallas (1987-10-05) 5 October 1987 (age 29) 54 9 England Everton
14 4FW Dries Mertens (1987-05-06) 6 May 1987 (age 29) 54 11 Italy Napoli
17 4FW Divock Origi (1995-04-18) 18 April 1995 (age 21) 22 3 England Liverpool
18 4FW Yannick Carrasco (1993-09-04) 4 September 1993 (age 23) 15 4 Spain Atlético Madrid
20 4FW Christian Benteke (1990-12-03) 3 December 1990 (age 26) 30 9 England Crystal Palace
21 4FW Thorgan Hazard (1993-03-29) 29 March 1993 (age 23) 2 0 Germany Borussia Mönchengladbach
22 4FW Michy Batshuayi (1993-10-02) 2 October 1993 (age 23) 9 3 England Chelsea

Recent[edit]

The following footballers were part of a national selection in the past 12 months,[180][181][182][183] but are not part of the current squad.

Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club Latest call-up
GK Jean-François Gillet (1979-05-31) 31 May 1979 (age 37) 9 0 Belgium Standard Liège UEFA Euro 2016

DF Christian Kabasele INJ (1991-02-24) 24 February 1991 (age 25) 1 0 England Watford v.  Estonia, 13 November 2016 WD
DF Vincent Kompany INJ (captain[179]) (1986-04-10) 10 April 1986 (age 30) 70 4 England Manchester City v.  Estonia, 13 November 2016 WD
DF Toby Alderweireld INJ (1989-03-02) 2 March 1989 (age 27) 64 3 England Tottenham Hotspur v.  Gibraltar, 10 October 2016
DF Sébastien Pocognoli (1987-08-01) 1 August 1987 (age 29) 13 0 England Brighton & Hove Albion v.  Gibraltar, 10 October 2016
DF Nicolas Lombaerts (1985-03-20) 20 March 1985 (age 31) 38 3 Russia Zenit Saint Petersburg v.  Gibraltar, 10 October 2016
DF Jordan Lukaku (1994-07-25) 25 July 1994 (age 22) 7 0 Italy Lazio v.  Gibraltar, 10 October 2016 WD
DF Thomas Vermaelen INJ (1985-11-14) 14 November 1985 (age 31) 58 1 Italy Roma v.  Cyprus, 6 September 2016
DF Jason Denayer (1995-06-28) 28 June 1995 (age 21) 8 0 England Sunderland UEFA Euro 2016
DF Dedryck Boyata (1990-11-28) 28 November 1990 (age 26) 2 0 Scotland Celtic UEFA Euro 2016 PRE, WD
DF Björn Engels INJ (1994-09-15) 15 September 1994 (age 22) 0 0 Belgium Club Brugge UEFA Euro 2016 PRE, WD
DF Laurens De Bock (1992-11-07) 7 November 1992 (age 24) 0 0 Belgium Club Brugge UEFA Euro 2016 PRE
DF Guillaume Gillet (1984-03-09) 9 March 1984 (age 32) 21 1 France Nantes UEFA Euro 2016 PRE

MF Moussa Dembélé INJ (1987-07-16) 16 July 1987 (age 29) 66 5 England Tottenham Hotspur v.  Estonia, 13 November 2016 WD
MF Marouane Fellaini INJ (1987-11-22) 22 November 1987 (age 29) 73 15 England Manchester United v.  Netherlands, 9 November 2016 WD
MF Nacer Chadli (1989-08-02) 2 August 1989 (age 27) 32 3 England West Bromwich Albion v.  Gibraltar, 10 October 2016
MF Radja Nainggolan (1988-05-04) 4 May 1988 (age 28) 26 6 Italy Roma v.  Bosnia and Herzegovina, 7 October 2016 WD[184]
Notes
INJ = Not part of the current squad due to injury
WD = Withdrew from this squad due to injury
PRE = Preliminary squad / standby

Notable[edit]

Player on the pitch in national team outfit
Paul Van Himst

Between 1904 and 1980, mainly attacking Belgium players were recognised as talented footballers. In the team's first decade, striker Robert De Veen was very productive with 26 goals in 23 international appearances.[185] Richard Henshaw described Alphonse Six as "Belgium's greatest player in the prewar period ... [who] was often called the most skillful forward outside Great Britain".[26] The key player of the victorious 1920 Olympic squad was Robert Coppée, who scored a hat-trick against Spain's Ricardo Zamora,[186] and the penalty in the final.[187] Other outstanding Belgian strikers in the interwar period were top scorer Bernard Voorhoof and "Belgium's football grandmaster" Raymond Braine,[56][188] considered "one of the greatest players of the era".[189]

Gifted players in the 1940s and the 1950s included centre-back Louis Carré and attackers Jef Mermans, Pol Anoul and Rik Coppens;[26] at the 1954 World Cup, Anoul shone with three goals,[32] and newspaper L'Équipe named Coppens the event's best centre forward.[190] The 1960s and the early 1970s were the glory days of forward and four-time Belgian Golden Shoe Paul Van Himst,[191] later elected Belgian UEFA Golden Player of 1954–2003 and Belgium's Player of the Century by IFFHS.[192][193] At the 1965 Ballon d'Or, Van Himst ranked fourth, achieving Belgium's highest ever position at the European football election.[194] Decades after Coppens and Van Himst had retired from playing football, a journalist on a Flemish television show asked them "Who [from both of you] was the best, actually?". Coppens replied: "I will ask Paul that ... If Paul says it was me, then he's right".[195] In 1966, striker Raoul Lambert and defending midfielder Wilfried Van Moer joined the national team;[56] while the UEFA praised Lambert for his skills at Euro 1972,[196] Van Moer won three Golden Shoes and equalled Van Himst's fourth rank at the Ballon d'Or in 1980.[191][197]

Belgium has seen two talented waves since 1980, from which several players in defensive positions gained international fame. In the 1980s and the early 1990s, goalkeepers Jean-Marie Pfaff and Michel Preud'homme were elected best custodians at FIFA World Cups,[48][49] while FIFA recognised midfielders Jan Ceulemans and Enzo Scifo as the propelling forces of Belgium's 1986 FIFA World Cup squad.[48][198] In 2002, after all players of this generation had retired,[56] Marc Wilmots became Belgium's top scorer at the World Cup with five goals.[47][169]

During the 12 years in which Belgium failed to qualify for major tournaments, another golden generation matured, most of whom later featured in foreign top football leagues; as of July 2013, 12 Belgian national team players would play the next season in the English Premier League.[145] Five players of this generation gained both prime individual and team awards in foreign top competitions or European club competitions:[I] defenders Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen,[199][200][201][202] wingers Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne,[203][204][205][206] and forward Kevin Mirallas.[207][208] However, as of November 2016 none of them were regarded by FIFA or UEFA to be the best at their position in any major international tournament yet.[209][210]

Competitive record[edit]

FIFA World Cup[edit]

Belgium failed to progress past the first round of their earliest five World Cup participations. After two scoreless defeats at the inaugural World Cup in 1930,[163] the team scored in their first-round knockout games in the 1934 and 1938 editions—but only enough to save their honour.[164][165] In 1954, they tied with England (4–4 after extra time),[32] and in 1970, they won their first World Cup match, against El Salvador (3–0).[36] From 1982 until 2002, Belgium reached six successive World Cups by playing qualification rounds, advancing to the second phase five times.[44] In the 1982 FIFA World Cup opener, Belgium beat defending champions Argentina 1–0. Their tournament ended in the second group stage, after a Polish hat-trick by Zbigniew Boniek and a 0–1 loss against the Soviet Union.[45]

Match phase with aerial play
United States–Belgium in 1930 was the joint first ever World Cup match.

At Mexico 1986, the Belgian team achieved their best-ever World Cup run. In the knockout phase as underdogs they beat the Soviets after extra time (3–4);[211] the unnoticed offside position of Jan Ceulemans, during the initial ninety minutes, allowed him to equalise (2–2) and force the game into extra time.[212] They also beat Spain, in a penalty shoot-out after a 1–1 draw, but lost to eventual champions Argentina in the semi-final 2–0, and France in the third-place match (4–2).[50] In the 1990 FIFA World Cup, Belgium dominated periods of their second-round match against England;[213] Enzo Scifo and Jan Ceulemans hit the woodwork.[214] David Platt's volley in the final minute of extra time, described as "nearly blind" by Richard Witzig,[215] avoided an apparently goalless draw and led to the sudden elimination of the Belgians.[216]

In 1994, a 3–2 defeat to defending champions Germany saw Belgium go out in the second round again.[46] Afterwards, the entire Belgian delegation criticised referee Kurt Röthlisberger for not awarding a penalty for a foul on Belgian Josip Weber.[217] Three draws in the group stage of the 1998 World Cup were insufficient for Belgium to reach the knockout stage.[169] With two draws, the 2002 FIFA World Cup started poorly for Belgium, but they won the decisive group match against Russia 3–2. In the second round, they faced eventual World Cup winners Brazil; Belgium lost 2–0 after Marc Wilmots' headed opening goal was disallowed due to a "phantom foul" on Roque Júnior, as Richard Witzig named it.[47][218]

In 2014, Belgium beat all their group opponents with a single-goal difference.[72] Thereafter, they played an entertaining round of 16 game against the United States,[219] in which American goalkeeper Tim Howard made 15 saves.[J] However, they defeated the US 2–1 in extra time.[72] In a balanced quarter-final, Argentina eliminated Belgium, after a 1–0 victory.[221]

Belgium's FIFA World Cup record Qualification record
Host nation(s)
and year
Round Pos Pld W D* L GF GA Squad Outcome Pld W D L GF GA
Uruguay 1930 Round 1 11th of 13 2 0 0 2 0 4 Squad Qualified as invitees
Italy 1934 15th of 16 1 0 0 1 2 5 Squad 2nd of 4 2 0 1 1 6 8
France 1938 13th of 15 1 0 0 1 1 3 Squad 2nd of 4 2 1 1 0 4 3
Brazil 1950 Withdrew[222] Withdrew
Switzerland 1954 Group stage 12th of 16 2 0 1 1 5 8 Squad 1st of 3 4 3 1 0 11 6
Sweden 1958 Did not qualify 2nd of 3 4 2 1 1 16 11
Chile 1962 3rd of 3 4 0 0 4 3 10
England 1966 1st of 4, playoff loss 5 3 0 2 12 5
Mexico 1970 Group stage 10th of 16 3 1 0 2 4 5 Squad 1st of 4 6 4 1 1 14 8
West Germany 1974 Did not qualify 2nd of 4 6 4 2 0 12 0
Argentina 1978 2nd of 4 6 3 0 3 7 6
Spain 1982 Group stage 2 10th of 24 5 2 1 2 3 5 Squad 1st of 5 8 5 1 2 12 9
Mexico 1986 Fourth place 4th of 24 7 2 2* 3 12 15 Squad 2nd of 4, playoff win 8 4 2 2 9 5
Italy 1990 Round of 16 11th of 24 4 2 0 2 6 4 Squad 1st of 5 8 4 4 0 15 5
United States 1994 11th of 24 4 2 0 2 4 4 Squad 2nd of 6 10 7 1 2 16 5
France 1998 Group stage 19th of 32 3 0 3 0 3 3 Squad 2nd of 5, playoff win 10 7 1 2 23 13
South Korea Japan 2002 Round of 16 14th of 32 4 1 2 1 6 7 Squad 2nd of 5, playoff win 10 7 2 1 27 6
Germany 2006 Did not qualify 4th of 6 10 3 3 4 16 11
South Africa 2010 4th of 6 10 3 1 6 13 20
Brazil 2014 Quarter-finals 6th of 32 5 4 0 1 6 3 Squad 1st of 6 10 8 2 0 18 4
Russia 2018 To be determined To be determined 4 4 0 0 21 1
Qatar 2022
Total Best: Fourth place 12/20 41 14 9 18 52 66 Total 127 72 24 31 255 136
     Champions       Runners-up       Third place       Fourth place
* Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks.

UEFA European Championship[edit]

Scheme of football pitch with the line-ups of a red team in 4-4-2 formation against a white team in 5-3-2 formation
Line-ups of the Euro 1980 final: Belgium (red) against West Germany

With four successful qualification campaigns out of thirteen, Belgium's performance in the European Championship does not compare to their World Cup record. Belgium has hosted or co-hosted the event twice; they were chosen to accommodate the 1972 European Football Championship from three candidates,[K] and hosted UEFA Euro 2000 with the Netherlands.[L][52]

At Euro 1972, Belgium finished third after losing 1–2 against West Germany and beating Hungary 2–1.[37] The team's best continental result is their second place at Euro 1980 in Italy. By finishing as group winners, Belgium reached the final, to face West Germany. The West German Horst Hrubesch scored first, but René Vandereycken equalised courtesy of a penalty. Two minutes before the regular playing time ended, Hrubesch scored again denying Belgium a first European title.[42]

At Euro 1984, in their last and decisive group match against Denmark, the Belgian team took a 0–2 lead, but the Danes won the match 3–2.[51] Sixteen years later, Belgium automatically reappeared at UEFA's national team tournament as co-hosts. After winning the Euro 2000 opener against Sweden 2–1,[225] two 2–0 losses against eventual runners-up Italy and Turkey eliminated the Belgians from the tournament by the end of the group stage.[52]

In spite of winning with broad margins against the Republic of Ireland (3–0) and Hungary (0–4) at Euro 2016,[226][227] Belgium's second very talented generation disappointed with a quarter-final exit. As during the tournament's qualifiers, Wales got the better of Belgium, with a 3–1 win.[76]

Belgium's UEFA European Championship record Qualification record
Host nation(s)
and year
Round Pos Pld W D L GF GA Squad Outcome Pld W D L GF GA
France 1960 Did not enter Did not enter
Spain 1964 Did not qualify Preliminary loss 2 0 0 2 2 4
Italy 1968 2nd of 4 6 3 1 2 14 9
Belgium 1972 Third place 3rd of 4 2 1 0 1 3 3 Squad Quarter-finals win 8 5 2 1 13 4
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1976 Did not qualify 1st of 4, playoff loss 8 3 2 3 7 10
Italy 1980 Runners-up 2nd of 8 4 1 2 1 4 4 Squad 1st of 5 8 4 4 0 12 5
France 1984 Group stage 6th of 8 3 1 0 2 4 8 Squad 1st of 4 6 4 1 1 12 8
West Germany 1988 Did not qualify 3rd of 5 8 3 3 2 16 8
Sweden 1992 3rd of 4 6 2 1 3 7 6
England 1996 3rd of 6 10 4 3 3 17 13
Belgium Netherlands 2000 Group stage 12th of 16 3 1 0 2 2 5 Squad Qualified as hosts
Portugal 2004 Did not qualify 3rd of 5 8 5 1 2 11 9
Austria Switzerland 2008 5th of 8 14 5 3 6 14 16
Poland Ukraine 2012 3rd of 6 10 4 3 3 21 15
France 2016 Quarter-finals 7th of 24 5 3 0 2 9 5 Squad 1st of 6 10 7 2 1 24 5
Europe 2020 To be determined
Total Best: Runners-up 5/15 17 7 2 8 22 25 Total 104 49 26 29 170 112
     Champions       Runners-up       Third place/Semi-finalists  

Summer Olympic Games[edit]

Aerial play with two Belgian players and the Luxembourg keeper trying to touch the ball
Hectic phase during the goal-rich Olympic win against Luxembourg in 1928 (5–3)

Football tournaments for senior men's national teams took place in six Summer Olympics between 1908 and 1936. The Belgian squad participated in all three Olympic football tournaments in the 1920s and kept the gold medal at home at the 1920 edition.[23][228] Apart from the proper national team, two other Belgian delegations appeared at the Olympics. At the 1900 Summer Olympics, a Belgian representation with mainly students won bronze,[229] and at the 2008 edition, Belgium's U-23 selection placed fourth.[61]

Belgium's 1920 Olympic squad was given a bye into the quarter-finals, where they won 3–1 against Spain, and reached the semi-finals, where they beat the Netherlands 3–0. In the first half of their final against Czechoslovakia, the Belgians led 2–0.[228] Forward Robert Coppée converted a disputed early penalty, and the action in which attacker Henri Larnoe doubled the score was also a matter of debate.[25][186] After the dismissal of the Czechoslovak left-back Karel Steiner, the discontented visitors left the pitch in the 40th minute. Afterwards, the away team reported their reasons for protest to the Olympic organisation;[25] these complaints were dismissed and the Czechoslovaks were disqualified.[26] The 2–0 score was allowed to stand and Belgium were crowned the champions.[26]

Records and fixtures[edit]

As of 13 November 2016, the complete official match record of the Belgian national team comprises 748 games: 309 wins, 160 draws and 279 losses.[H][23] During these games, the team scored 1,280 times and conceded 1,227 goals. Belgium reached its highest winning margin against San Marino (10–1) and Zambia (9–0).[23] Their longest winning streak is seven wins in two periods, and their unbeaten record is fourteen consecutive official games.[H][23]

The entire match record can be examined on the following articles:

Upcoming fixtures are listed on the 2010s results page; these include the qualification matches for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Player records[edit]

Player in training outfit running with the ball
Jan Ceulemans

As of 13 November 2016, the RBFA lists 682 players who appeared on the men's senior national team.[M][56] With 96 caps, Jan Ceulemans featured most often;[185] he also started the most games as captain (48).[231] Hector Goetinck had the longest career as an international footballer: 17 years, 6 months and 10 days.[56]

Bernard Voorhoof and Paul Van Himst are the highest-scoring Belgium players, with 30 goals each.[185] Those who scored the most goals in one match are Robert De Veen, Bert De Cleyn and Josip Weber (5);[56] De Veen also holds the record for the most hat-tricks with three.[56] Belgium's fastest goal after the initial kick-off was scored by Christian Benteke, 8.1 seconds into the match against Gibraltar on 10 October 2016.[231][232]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ The acronyms KBVB, URBSFA and KBFV come from the organisation's respective Dutch, French and German names: Koninklijke Belgische Voetbalbond, Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de Football-Association and Königliche Belgische Fußballverband.
    The title of "Royal Union" was awarded on its 25th anniversary in 1920.[1]
  2. ^ Note that this match is not considered to be a full international by the English FA, and does not appear in the England team records.[5]
  3. ^ UBSFA was the acronym for the organisation's French name: Union Belge des Sociétés de Football-Association.
    In 1920 it received the title of "Royal Union" for its 25th year of existence, and hence became the Royal Belgian Football Association.[10]
  4. ^ Even in their last match of 1980, against Cyprus on 21 December, Belgium played in an Adidas outfit.[91] This suggests that Admiral's sponsorship started in 1981, contrary to what the 2014 article stated.
  5. ^ The timeline in the 2014 overview article stated the switch from Diadora to Nike happened in 1998. However, the 1999 article focused on this kit sponsor change which took place in mid-1999.
  6. ^ The interim managers were Louis Nicolay and Franky Vercauteren.[156][157]
  7. ^ According to the "three points for a win" standard
  8. ^ a b c Note that the friendlies against Romania on 14 November 2012 and against Luxembourg on 26 May 2014 are not FIFA-recognised due to an excessive number of substitutions according to the Laws of the Game.[178]
  9. ^ Prime individual awards include being elected the season's or year's best player of a competition; prime team awards equal winning a competition. National top divisions, main national cup competitions, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League are considered.
  10. ^ FIFA's initial match statistics showed 16 saves, and many news sources continue to use this number. The official FIFA statistics were updated on 5 July 2014 to show 15 saves.[220]
  11. ^ The other bids were from England and Italy,[223] whose teams did not reach the semi-finals.[37]
  12. ^ UEFA preferred the Belgium-Netherlands bid to the individual bids of Spain and Austria.[224]
  13. ^ Note that the RBFA does not count caps earned in the Belgian seven Summer Olympics matches, and that it does include Belgium's friendlies on 14 November 2012 and 26 May 2014 that are not FIFA-recognised due to an excessive number of substitutions according to the Laws of the Game.[178]

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Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Aerts, Bart; Buyse, Frank; Colin, François; Cornez, Pierre; Decoster, Gilles; Deferme, Dirk; et al. (2013). De Rode Duivels. Het officiële boek [The Red Devils. The official book] (in Dutch). Veurne: Uitgeverij Kannibaal. ISBN 978-94-91376-66-5. 
  • Colin, François (2014). De Rode Duivels 1900–2014 [The Red Devils 1900–2014] (in Dutch). Veurne: Uitgeverij Kannibaal. ISBN 978-94-91376-77-1. 
  • Hubert, Christian (1994). De Montevideo à Orlando [From Montevideo to Orlando] (in French). Brussels: Labor. ISBN 978-2-8040-1009-6. 
  • Hubert, Christian (2006). Le siècle des Diables Rouges [The century of the Red Devils] (in French). Brussels: Luc Pire. ISBN 978-2-87415-684-7. 

External links[edit]