Population: 10,300,000
Area: 30,510 km²
Capital: Brussels
Language: Flemish, French, German

Belgium came runners-up to Croatia in the UEFA group 6 and needed a play-off against the Czech Republic to qualify.
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Participations: (10) 1930, 1934, 1938, 1954, 1970, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998
Best placing: Fourth place 1986
Topscorer: Jan Ceulemans, 4 goals
More detailed history information

Jun 04 - BEL v JPN  in Saitama
Jun 10 - BEL v TUN  in Oita
Jun 14 - BEL v RUS  in Shizuoka

Emile Mpenza is a speedy, but inconsistent forward with great finishing abilities. Belgium is not loaded with great attacking talent and the team's future in the World Cup depends very much on this man's form in front of goal.

WCA VERDICT: First round exit
This team failed to reach the knock-out stages at Euro 2000 when they were co-hosts and even though this group is easier on paper, we think Belgium will go home after three games.


by Ruud Doevendans

    Belgian coach Waseige is a veteran, a quiet man, and like a friendly grandfather to his players. He is a bit like the very successful Guy Thijs in the 80ís. Belgian players seem to fare well with these kind of coaches. Waseige has proven to be able to get the best out of them. This Belgian squad isnít the most talented they ever had, not to say that itís an average team. But they advanced at the cost of the very talented Czech Republic, and thatís an achievement in itself. Twice 1-0, and that tells the story. This is a balanced team that is hard to beat. But they wonít put on the show on any team.

    Belgium had a reputation for great goalies, but not this time. No Piot, no Pfaff and Preudíhomme there, they will have to do with Geert De Vlieger. He plays for Willem II Tilburg in the Dutch league, but has to be considered as one of the least talented in the tournament. Their defence is steady, with hard working Eric Deflandre at right back. Deflandre has a speciality in clearing shots on the line, and gets forward whenever he can. At left Nico Van Kerckhoven will get the nod. The Schalke-man is a midfielder by trade, so there is something to expect from his as well regarding the offense. At libero, Erik Van Meir has taken over from Lorenzo Staelens. Normally Van Meir also has qualities in attack, but in a World Cup I wouldnít expect him to go past the midfield line. This is still the Belgian team, no gamblers, no daredevils. Then they still need a manmarker and this is an open place. If Joos Valgaeren, a Celtic man, recovers in time from his hernia surgery he may be the man, but Philippe Clement and Daniel Van Buyten are not without a chance.

    In defensive midfield, I thought Belgium had a fine player in Yves Vanderhaeghe, but he seems to be overhauled by young and emerging Tim Simons. It surprised me, but Simons did well during these matches with the Czechs. Alongside him, Walter Baseggio is a good player with a decent shot from distance. Strengths are the outsides of the midfield with experienced players like Gert Verheyen, who can also play in attack. Verheyen captained the side during the play-offs and he did well. Scoring the goal in the home match, as well as winning the penalty in Prague made him a dominant figure. He is certain of his place. At left, Bart Goor hasnít been playing too much at his club Hertha BSC but must still be considered as a favourite to win his place. Surprisingly, another candidate is yet again veteran Danny Boffin, a kind of motorcycle going up and down the field, who has never let down the Belgian team.

    Donít be surprised to see Belgium play with just one man up front, and that man could be Emile Mpenza from Schalke í04. Itís true that young Wesley Sonck, recently hailed as Belgiumís player of the year, is a possibility there, but Mpenza seems to be the man, and he can be supported by Marc Wilmots, who is Belgiumís most experienced player. Wilmots is the kind of player every coach would love to have in his team, hard working and always capable of scoring the important goal. As a substitute, he killed off the last Czech hopes by converting a late penalty-kick in Prague, in the return of the play-offs.

    Belgium play Japan, Tunisia and Russia in a group that will be one of the closest in this World Cup. They will not concede many goals, but scoring themselves is a big problem. They will most likely do relatively well against better sides, but struggle to make the play against a team like Tunisia. Itís not easy to say whether Belgium is going to advance to the second round, but if they do, I think the last 16 will be the end for them. It wonít harm them, in Belgium people are not asking so much of their team. They know what their place is.


by Jan Alsos

    Belgium has participated in ten World Cups and was one of only four European nations who bothered to make the long journey to Uruguay by ship for the very first World Cup in 1930. Their profit was meagre as they travelled home empty handed having failed to score a goal and lost both their games in the opening round. Belgium also took part in the two European based World Cups in Italy and France before World War II and lost in the opening round on both occasions.

    Belgium did not go to Brazil 1950, but gained their first ever World Cup point in a remarkable 4-4 draw with England in Switzerland four years later. That result was not enough to take them through and it took sixteen years before they qualified again. The 1970 World Cup in Mexico saw Belgium capture their first World Cup win - forty years after their debut - against minnows El Salvador, but hosts Mexico and the Soviet Union proved to be too strong and edged out the Belgians.

    Further twelve years went by before Belgium again could grace footballís greatest stage and this time cause an upset by beating defending champions Argentina with Maradona 1-0 in Barcelona on the tournamentís opening day. That win helped them gather enough points to advance from the first round group, but they could do little against Poland and Boniek who put an end to further glory in the second phase. On the positive side, the bad run of five straight first round exits was broken.

    The 1986 World Cup is the highlight of Belgian football history. The team went all the way to the semifinals stopped only be Argentina. Profiles like Ceulemans, Scifo, Claesen and colourful goalkeeper Pfaff carried the team through the rounds in breathtaking encounters against the Soviet Union and Spain.

    Belgium couldnít quite live up to the 1986 standards in Italy four years later much because of less luck in decisive moments. The team achieved solid wins over South Korea and Uruguay, but Englandís David Platt ended the Belgian dream when the clock showed 119 minutes played in the second round with a perfect volley. Second round was again the limit in 1994 when Germany proved to be too powerful, but the highlight of that tournament was the win over neighbours Holland. In France 1998, the two neighours met again and this time the result was a goalless draw which gave Belgium a nice start, but two more draws followed against Mexico and South Korea which wasnít enough to progress for a fifth consecutive time because Mexico equalized against Holland deep into injurytime in the very last game.




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