90min
UEFA Euro 2020

Euro 2020 may be last chance for Belgium's golden generation to reach glory

Max Parsons
Will Eden Hazard finally achieve success with his country?
Will Eden Hazard finally achieve success with his country? / Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images
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Nothing says 'golden generation' quite like failed potential, does it? Well, that's how we view things in England anyway.

But Belgium still have the opportunity to avoid that omnipresent, lingering regret in future years - their golden generation are still well and truly alive. However, Euro 2020 could be their last chance to reach glory and make their abundance of quality really count.

The Belgians have been the highest-ranked country in the FIFA rankings since September 2018 - their only other stint there was November 2015 to March 2016 - but have so far found their efforts at major tournaments fruitless. Despite their lofty standings over the past six years, they only reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 and were beaten by eventual winners France in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.

They'll be hoping it's third time lucky in this summer's delayed Euro 2020 tournament. And with the unmistakeable talent in Belgium's ranks, they're certainly a good bet.

The country's six highest cap-earners are current players in the squad - Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Toby Alderweireld, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku - and Roberto Martinez can call upon one of Europe's most feared strikers and Belgium's all-time leading goalscorer with 63 strikes in 96 appearances in Lukaku, as well as frightening creative maestros like Kevin De Bruyne - yep, they're stacked.

But, the simple fact is, time is catching up with these players.

It is true that the unearthly duo of De Bruyne and Lukaku are both slap bang in their prime years and will likely be just as brilliant - or even more accomplished - by the time the 2022 World Cup in Qatar rolls around. But the same cannot be said for the other senior figures in the squad.

Belgium v Russia - UEFA Euro 2020: Group B
Eden Hazard and Jan Vertonghen are two staples of Belgium's golden generation / Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images

Hazard, who has had a torrid couple of years at Real Madrid, is now 30, Alderweireld and Witsel are 32, Vertonghen and Mertens are 34 and Thomas Vermaelen is 35. The staples and core of Belgium's golden generation are not, by any stretch, fresh-faced anymore.

Their quality is still doubtless - they proved that by maintaining a 100% record in Euro 2020's Group B. Beating Russia 3-0 in St. Petersburg on matchday one, beating Denmark 2-1 in Copenhagen on matchday two and concluding matters with a 2-0 victory over Finland back in St. Petersburg on matchday three was evidence enough of their ability to dominate.

But, with a lack of squad depth that other favourites in the tournament boast, the onus to perform throughout will well and truly fall on their proven - and admittedly rather aged - names.

Can they keep their momentum up for the duration? We will have to wait and see, starting with their mammoth round of 16 tie with one of the fellow front-runners Portugal.

The players that have been labelled as Belgium's golden generation are still capable of pushing their nation to glory but, with time passing by between every major tournament, it may be now or never.

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