Belgium's Greatest XI: 2000 - 2020

Max Cooper
Belgium's Greatest XI 2000-2020
Belgium's Greatest XI 2000-2020 /
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Belgium have spent the past decade weighed down by their label as international football's dark horse. The Red Devils have been blessed with their very own 'Golden Generation', which, as with many of these lauded teams, has failed miserably to live up to expectations thus far.

But their time may still come. The 2018 World Cup represented a huge step in the right direction for Roberto Martinez and his players, who finished third in the competition - their best ever result.

The last 20 years have been spent building towards grabbing a seat at the top table of world football, where the Belgians now finally find themselves dining. But who have been the standout players to have dragged them to this point?

Here we take a look back at the greatest Belgium XI from 2000 to 2020.


Goalkeepers & Defenders

Thibaut Courtois (GK)

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH63-BEL-ENG
FBL-WC-2018-MATCH63-BEL-ENG / PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

Any CV which boasts the likes of Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid is the résumé of a world-beater. And Courtois is a man who was designed for the biggest of occasions. Los Merengues' number one has been playing out of his skin at the highest level for the best part of a decade, and he is without doubt one of the most important figures in this Belgium team.

The 27-year-old was the standout goalkeeper at the 2018 World Cup, making more saves than any other shot-stopper at the tournament, and he particularly starred in the Red Devils' 2-1 victory over the much-fancied Brazil. Courtois rightly earned the Golden Glove award for his efforts, and he'll be desperate to go one step further than the semi final defeat they suffered last time out and bring some silverware back to Belgium.


Thomas Meunier (RB)

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH63-BEL-ENG
FBL-WC-2018-MATCH63-BEL-ENG / OLGA MALTSEVA/Getty Images

A relative newcomer to this Belgium side, Meunier has put to bed any concerns over the strength of their right flank in recent years. The Paris Saint-Germain star thrives in the opposition's half of the pitch, bombing down the right-hand side and creating plenty of scoring chances for his teammates.

The 28-year-old also has an uncanny knack of getting into scoring positions from his wide-right position, bagging seven goals over the course of his international career - including a strike in Belgium's third-place playoff against England in 2018. A versatile and valuable asset for any manager.


Daniel Van Buyten (CB)

Daniel van Buyten was a terrific defender. Strong, commanding and an intelligent centre back, the Bayern Munich star went on to make over 80 international appearances from 2001 to 2014.

Unfortunately, his time on the international stage came at a time when the Red Devils were far from their best, and after featuring heavily at the 2002 World Cup Van Buyten had to wait until 2014 to set foot at another major tournament. But he did get his chance once again, ultimately missing out narrowly to Argentina in the quarter finals. A superb servant.


Vincent Kompany (CB)

UEFA Euro 2016 qualifier - "Belgium v Bosnia and Herzegovina"
UEFA Euro 2016 qualifier - "Belgium v Bosnia and Herzegovina" / VI-Images/Getty Images

Captain fantastic. When you imagine your nation lifting a trophy, you'd want someone with the stature and reputation of Kompany at the forefront of the picture. The Manchester City legend leads by example, both on and off the pitch.

A classy defender and a scholar of the game, Kompany has marshalled the Belgium backline for more than a decade, having also gained the captain's armband in 2011. The 34-year-old has rarely let his nation down during his 89 caps, and it's no surprise. He is Mr Reliable.


Jan Vertonghen (LB)

Belgium  v Russia  -EURO Qualifier
Belgium v Russia -EURO Qualifier / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

An ever-present for the Red Devils. Jan Vertonghen has been an excellent asset for Belgium, pulling on the red shirt over 100 times since making his debut in 2007. The Tottenham star is a handy player to have within your ranks, given his dominant displays at centre back and willingness to fill in at left back when required.

Vertonghen established himself in the Belgium defence in 2010 and has never looked back. The 33-year-old kept his nation's dreams alive at the 2018 World Cup, heading home brilliantly to halve a 2-0 deficit to Japan, a game which Martinez's men would go on to win in dramatic fashion.


Midfielders

Axel Witsel (CM)

UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier"Belgium v Kazachstan"
UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier"Belgium v Kazachstan" / VI-Images/Getty Images

One of the most underrated and under-appreciated midfielders in the world, Witsel has continued to prove his worth on the international stage over the past decade or so. Many thought the 31-year-old's Belgium career may have come to a premature end in 2017, when he made a move to the lesser-fancied Chinese Super League.

But despite Martinez declaring that no player who made a switch to China would be considered for selection, Witsel retained his place in the Red Devils' squad, simply because he is an absolute superstar. Industrious and intelligent in possession, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder is one of the very best in the centre of the pitch.


Marouane Fellaini (CM)

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH54-BEL-JPN
FBL-WC-2018-MATCH54-BEL-JPN / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/Getty Images

Although Fellaini has been mocked as a figure of fun in England, due to his big hair and gangly physique, there is no question that the Belgian midfielder is a man you'd want on your team. The 32-year-old is a strong, determined and dominant ball-winner who provides a stern test for any opponent.

And Fellaini is an excellent alternative as a 'Plan B', should his side ever find themselves behind in a crucial match. Martinez utilised the ex-Manchester United man expertly in 2018, releasing him from his shackles to cause mayhem against Japan, and he subsequently bagged the equalising goal with a trademark header. Now retired from international duty, Fellaini will be sorely missed in the Belgium camp.


Kevin De Bruyne (CM)

Belgium v Scotland - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier
Belgium v Scotland - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier / Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images

What else can you say about Kevin De Bruyne? Simply put, he is an absolute magician and a freak of footballing nature. The Manchester City star is one of and in many people's eyes the best midfielder in the world.

De Bruyne is renowned for his ability to see and execute passes which other professionals wouldn't have even contemplated, and his devastating technique makes him one of the cleanest strikers of the ball in the sport. He is the heartbeat of the Belgium international team and a gloriously talented player.


Marc Wilmots (CAM)

Okay, so Wilmots hasn't made too much of an impact for Belgium over the past two decades, given he retired from international duty in 2002, but his influence on the team and his wonderful talent cannot go ignored.

Wilmots regularly came up with the goods when his nation needed him, climaxing with his brilliant World Cup 2002 campaign, where he bagged three vital goals for the Red Devils before crashing out at the round of 16 stage to eventual winners Brazil. A legend of the game.


Strikers

Eden Hazard (ST)

Belgium v Cyprus - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier
Belgium v Cyprus - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier / Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images

This guy has magic in his boots. Born to entertain on centre court, Eden Hazard dazzles with his lightning pace, tricky footwork and mesmerising dribbling skills. Los Blancos' star is able to play anywhere across the front line, and Belgium seldom lose when he is on song.

Hazard proved during his time at Chelsea that he can be one of the very best in the world, and now at Real Madrid he has the chance to fulfil his prophecy and dominate Europe. But an international trophy would give him a status of immortality among his supporters back in Belgium.


Romelu Lukaku (ST)

UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier group I"Belgium v San Marino"
UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier group I"Belgium v San Marino" / ANP Sport/Getty Images

And Lukaku partners Hazard, completing the lineup. It's no surprise, either. No matter what Manchester United fans will tell you about his first touch or performances in the big games, the Belgian striker is a natural goalscorer and a clinical finisher.

At the age of only 26, Lukaku is already the Red Devils' all-time leading goalscorer, racking up 52 goals in 84 matches. You cannot argue with those numbers. Still in his prime, Belgium will be relying on the forward to propel them to glory over the coming years.


Belgium will face Spain in their round of 16 matchup. Keep an eye on our social media channels to cast your vote!

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