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.
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 Marc Wilmots[1][2]
Asst coach Vital Borkelmans[3]
Captain Vincent Kompany[4]
Vice-captain Thomas Vermaelen[5]
Most caps Jan Ceulemans (96)[6]
Top scorer Bernard Voorhoof (30)[6]
Paul Van Himst (30)[6]
Home stadium King Baudouin Stadium
FIFA ranking 4 Steady (12 March 2015)
Highest FIFA ranking 4 (October 2014–March 2015)
Lowest FIFA ranking 71 (June 2007)
Elo ranking 13 (26 March 2015)[7]
Highest Elo ranking 2 (September 1920[8])
Lowest Elo ranking 74 (September 2009[8])
First colours
Second colours
First international
 Belgium 3–3 France 
(Brussels, 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 4 (First in 1972)
Best result Runners-Up, 1980
Current season

The Belgian national football team (Dutch: Belgisch voetbalelftal;[9] French: Équipe belge de football; German: Belgische Fußballnationalmannschaft) has represented Belgium in association football since 1904. It is controlled by the Royal Belgian Football Association, the governing body for football in Belgium. The majority of Belgium's home matches are held at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels. Former national team player Marc Wilmots is the current manager. Since 1906, the side has been colloquially referred to as the Red Devils (Dutch: de Rode Duivels;[10] French: les Diables Rouges; German: die Roten Teufel).

Achievements in international tournaments include the 1920 Olympic Football Gold Medal, runner-up in the UEFA Euro 1980 and qualification for six successive FIFA World Cups between 1982 and 2002 including a fourth place finish in 1986. The team has gathered four victories over reigning world champions: 2–0 against West Germany in 1954, 5–1 against Brazil in 1963, 0–1 versus Argentina in 1982 and 1–2 versus France in 2002.[11]

Belgium maintains a longstanding rivalry with their Netherlands equivalent, having played biannually between 1905 and 1964 (excluding the war periods) and less frequently since.[12] Jan Ceulemans holds the record for appearances, having played 96 times for the national side between 1977 and 1991.[6] Bernard Voorhoof and Paul Van Himst share the scoring record, with a tally of 30 goals each.[6] The team is backed by a supporters' federation named 1895.


This section only covers a general overview of the team history; for more detailed tournament history, read further in section "Competitive record".

Early years (1901–19)[edit]

The Belgian team before making their international debut against France, on 1 May 1904

Belgium was the first mainland European country to play association football, after the sport was introduced from Britain and Ireland in 1860.[13][14] Over following decades it supplanted rugby as the most popular national football sport.[15] On 11 October 1900, Beerschot Athletic Club president of honour Jorge Díaz announced that Belgium would host a series of challenge matches in Antwerp, taking on Europe's best football teams.[16] After some organisational difficulties, a first tournament was played between a Belgian selection and a Dutch team led by ex-player Cees van Hasselt on 28 April 1901. The results were in Belgium's favour, with her team defeating Netherlands by 8–0,[17] and going on to win three follow-up games. However these results were not recognised by FIFA since the Belgian team contained some English players.[18]

It was decided that Belgium would play twice a year against Netherlands beginning from 1905, generally once in Antwerp and once in Rotterdam. At that time, Belgium's national squad was chosen by a committee of representatives from the country's six or seven main clubs.[19][20] From these beginnings until 1925, Belgian-Dutch cup trophies would be awarded in the "Low Countries derby".[21]

On 1 May 1904 the Belgian team played their first official game, against France at the Stade Vivier d'Oie ("Goose Pond Stadium") in Uccle. The game was attended by 1,500 spectators and ended in a 3–3 draw, leaving neither side in possession of the Évence Coppée Trophy.[22] Twenty days later, the Belgian and French football associations joined five other national teams in founding the International Federation of Association Football, or FIFA.[23]

In 1906, journalist Pierre Walckiers nicknamed the team The Red Devils, in honour of their team colours and that year's achievement of three consecutive victories, a 0–5 win versus France and 5–0 and 2–3 wins against the Netherlands.[24]

In 1910, former Scottish footballer William Maxwell was assigned as first manager of the Red Devils. Under his charge, Alphonse Six made his international début; Six was one of Belgium's greatest players in the prewar period and regarded as the most skillful attacker outside the British Isles.[25] Football was suspended during World War One, with no national games hosted or played between 1915 and 1918.

Debuts at major tournaments (1920–78)[edit]

In 1920 at their first official Olympic appearance, the Red Devils won the gold medal on home soil after a controversial final in which their opponents Czechoslovakia left the pitch. While their results in the three Summer Olympics of the 1920s were meritorious (four wins in seven games), the team lost every match of their three FIFA World Cup participations in the 1930s. Raymond "Ray" Braine was one of the most talented Belgian players in the 1920s–1930s era, winning eight club titles and becoming four times top scorer in the Belgian and Czechoslovak first divisions.[26]

19301980 Belgium lion emblem

International football tournaments were suspended in the 1940s following the outbreak of World War Two. A number of gifted players also left the team between 1948 and 1954, including attackers Henri "Rik" Coppens, Joseph "Jef" Mermans and Léopold "Pol" Anoul, and centre back Louis Carré.[25]

Belgium qualified for one out of eight major tournaments in the 1950s and 1960s only, the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland. One day before the 1954 World Cup commenced, the RBFA co-founded the European football federation UEFA after consultation with the existing French and Italian associations.[27] According to journalist Henry Guldemont, some of his Swiss colleagues regarded the 1954 Belgian team as "favourites for the world title" after a promising 4–4 opener against England.[28][29] However, in the second and last group match against Italy, Belgium was defeated 1–4 and was unable to proceed to the finals.

The team's prospects improved in the early 1970s. Under Raymond Goethals, Belgium obtained their first wins at World and European Championships (in 1970 and 1972, respectively). The Euro 1972 tournament, in which they finished third, was their first appearance at the European Championships. The period was also the glory days of four-time Belgian Golden Shoe and Belgian joint-topscorer Paul Van Himst, later elected Belgium's Golden Player between 1954 and 2004.[30] After 1972, the next three attempts to qualify for a major tournament were all in vain. In their qualifiers for the 1974 World Cup they became the only national team to miss out on the World Cup without ever conceding a goal, as they finished behind rivals Netherlands on goal difference.[31] Since the 1970s a key strength of the Belgian team became its systematic use of the offside trap,[32][33] a defensive tactic developed in the 1960s at Anderlecht under French coach Pierre Sinibaldi.[34]

Golden Generation (1979–2002)[edit]

Under Guy Thys, Belgium reached the Euro 1980 final and the 1986 World Cup semifinals.

Belgium's most successful period started when they finished second in the UEFA Euro 1980. The 1980s and early 1990s are generally considered the first golden age of the national team. Under the leadership of Guy Thys, who coached more than 100 official games, they established a reputation of being a physical, well-organized team that was difficult to play against.

Between 1982 and 2002, Belgium qualified for every FIFA World Cup, and in most World Cups they also made it to the second round. After Thys, also managers Paul Van Himst and Robert Waseige guided a national selection past the first round. Apart from FIFA recognitions for individual players, the team as a collective reached the semifinals in 1986, where they were stopped by eventual world champions Argentina. While the World Cups of 1990 and 1994 were reached directly, the national squad had to struggle through play-off rounds again to qualify for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups. After the Euro 1980 final, Belgium did not convince anymore at the continental level, with early exits in their two appearances at the Euro 1984 and Euro 2000 tournaments respectively.

The team's rigorous organization was reinforced by several world-class players such as goalkeepers Jean-Marie Pfaff and Michel Preud'homme, right-back Eric Gerets, midfielders Jan Ceulemans and Franky Van der Elst, playmaker Enzo Scifo and striker Luc Nilis, all of whom had retired from international football by 2000. Pfaff, Ceulemans and Van der Elst appeared in Pelé's selection of 125 greatest living footballers in 2004.[35] After the 2002 World Cup, other valuable players in their thirties stopped playing with the national side, including Marc Wilmots and Gert Verheyen. Coach Waseige left as well, creating a place for Aimé Anthuenis.[36][37]

Setbacks and new hope (2003–11)[edit]

Belgium did not reach Portugal's Euro 2004, and after failing to qualify for the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1978, the contract of national coach Aimé Anthuenis was not renewed beyond 2005. René Vandereycken was assigned to replace Anthuenis in January 2006,[38] but the performances of the team did not improve and they slipped to an all-time low 71st position in the FIFA World Rankings in June 2007. After failing to qualify for Euro 2008 and a generally poor performance in the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, where Belgium ended fourth in their group (two places below the play-off spot), coach Vandereycken was sacked in April 2009.[39] His assistant Franky Vercauteren would take over ad interim.

In the meantime, a promising new generation appeared to arise as Belgium's U-21 selection qualified for the 2008 Summer Olympics in 2007, and the Young Red Devils squad placed fourth at Beijing 2008. These young players, many of which would grow into the senior national team, were characterized by mostly defensive skills and also a strong midfield. Yet, their appearance in the senior team did not result in immediate success. After a 2–1 loss against Armenia in September 2009, interim-coach Vercauteren resigned and made way for new coach Dick Advocaat.[40][41] However, in April 2010, after only six months at the helm, Advocaat resigned as manager of Belgium amid speculation that he was to become coach of Russia.[42] Georges Leekens was announced as his successor in May 2010, signing a contract until 2012.[43] During Leekens' second term of office (having previously managed Belgium from 1997 to 1999) the Red Devils narrowly missed the Euro 2012 play-offs.

New Golden Generation (2012–present)[edit]

Belgian national football team in 2013, before a friendly against the United States

Leekens left in May 2012 and signed for Club Brugge, stating his work was 90% completed.[44][45] Assistant manager Marc Wilmots (assistant since 2009) was asked to replace Leekens and under his reign, the team improved, rising to a high of fifth on the FIFA World Rankings in October 2013.[46] By 2013, several foreign media regarded this Belgian national side during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers as a new golden generation.[47][48][49][50] Belgium had a broad potential to create chances, mainly with players such as attackers Kevin Mirallas, Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku, as well as midfielders Marouane Fellaini, Axel Witsel, Mousa Dembélé, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard. The solid defence has also been well noticed with outfield players such as Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen as well as the goalkeepers Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet. Coach Wilmots was credited with "not only giving the young group confidence in themselves as well as enjoying a close relationship with his players but also at the same time being capable of instilling discipline to the squad".[51] Belgium finally qualified as group winners after 8 wins and 2 draws. At the 2014 World Cup finals, the young and internationally less experienced squad continued its success by managing a streak of four wins, earning a spot for Belgium in the quarter-finals for only the second time in its history. This result is eclipsed only by the fourth place acquired in 1986.

In June 2014, Wilmots prolonged his managerial contract until 2018 (including the World Cup in Russia).[52] Players such as Adnan Januzaj, Divock Origi, Radja Nainggolan and Michy Batshuayi added up to the offensive potential of his squad. Currently, Belgium participates in the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifiers; the opponents in their group are Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Israel and Wales. The team reached another all-time FIFA rank record during this period, reaching 4th in October 2014.

Team image[edit]

Media coverage[edit]

Gust De Muynck's live coverage during Belgium-Netherlands in 1931

The first live coverage of a football match of Belgium's national team was given on 3 May 1931. Journalist Gust De Muynck commented Belgium-Netherlands at the radio; this was also the first Belgian sporting event on air.[53]

Decades later, television became the more popular medium to follow the matches. As 59% of the Belgians are Dutch-speakers (mostly Flemings), and 41% are French-speakers (mostly Walloons and Brussels inhabitants), the matches of the Belgian national football team are broadcast both in Dutch and in French. Less than 1% is German-speaking; they regularly follow the matches in French. During Belgium's tournament appearances in the 1980s and early 1990s, journalist Rik De Saedeleer crowned himself the nation's most famous sports commentator with his emotional and humorous match reports.[54] Up to 1994 the matches have purely been a public broadcasting issue (on the former BRTN in Dutch and on the RTBF in French) but from 1994 on from time to time also commercial channels have been purchasing the emission rights (such as vtm - with sister channel Kanaal 2 - and VIER in Flanders).[55] Like the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the qualifiers for the 2016 European and the 2018 World Championships will exclusively be broadcast by the public companies VRT and RTBF.[56] The 8th final against the United States at the 2014 World Cup became the most-watched television program in Belgian history, with a total audience of over 4 million viewers out of 11.2 million Belgian citizens.[57]

In April 2014, the VRT started emitting a nine-piece weekly documentary about the national team behind the scenes during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, titled Iedereen Duivel ("Everybody Devil").[58] In the same month cable broadband provider Telenet announced it would emit an eight-piece documentary about individual players, Rode Helden ("Red Heroes").[59]


  • Actions for the fans: During the qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil great actions were held, the so-called "Devil Challenges". These implied that small groups of internationals would do a favour in return for each of the five comprehensive tasks that their supporters succeeded in executing ("colour Belgium red", "gather 500,000 decibels", "create 1000 King Baudouin Stadiums", "a King Baudouin Stadium full of children's drawings" and "fill one compartment of the King Baudouin Stadium with fanatic female fans"),[60] all of which where convincingly accomplished.[61] On 2 June 2013 the Red Devils welcomed over 20,000 supporters at their first ever Fan Day, in the King Baudouin Stadium.[62] A second edition would follow after the 2014 World Cup.[63] In June 2014 at the days of Belgium's World Cup group matches, large dance events titled Dance with the Devils (pun on a 2001 trance album)[64] took place in the cities of Antwerp, Brussels and Charleroi.[65]
  • Charity support: Two unofficial matches against Netherlands in 1926 and 1932 served as fundraiser for benefactions.[12] In the summer of 1986, when the Belgian delegation reached the semifinals of the World Cup in Mexico, the football team started the project Casa Hogar under impulse of delegation responsible Dr. Michel D'Hooghe. This is a home for street children in the industrial Mexican city Toluca, to which the football players donated part of their tournament bonuses. During 25 years, the RBFA stayed committed with this project and helped 500 children to meals and education.[66] In August 2013, the national team supported the social charity fund "Football+ Foundation" by playing with a plus sign on the shoulders of their jerseys during their match against France, and by afterwards auctioning these shirts in favour of this fund.[67] The gains went to four social projects supporting handicapped people, homeless, vulnerable youngsters and socially deprived groups, respectively.[68]
  • Anti-racism campaigns: In 2002, the national squad posed with "Colour-rich exercising together"/"Red card for Racism"-messages,[69] and in 2010 the home Euro 2012 qualifier against Austria stood in the theme of "Respect for diversity". This action was supported by the UEFA and made part of the European FARE Action Week.[70] Ex-Red Devil Dimitri Mbuyu (first black Belgium player, in 1987)[71][72] engaged himself as godfather for this action, and also other (ex-)players of foreign origin in the Belgian competition participated.


While bicycle racing in its different forms is the traditional national sport of Belgium, football has become the most popular.[15] Without any doubt, the most beautiful moment for the Red Devils and their fans was in the summer of 1986, when a 'joyous entry' took place for the Belgian delegation that became fourth at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. The Grand Place of Brussels was captured by a human mass that cheered to their World Cup semifinalists appearing on the Town Hall balcony, as if just a major tournament was won.[73] Contrary to the Scottish "Tartan Army" and the Danish "Roligans" the supporters of the Red Devils have not earned themselves a nickname yet. But, recently in 2012 the supporters joined their forces by joining the local fan clubs into one large Belgian supporters' federation, named 1895 (after the year of foundation of the RBFA. One year later, over 24,000 members had joined the federation.[74] Just like the national team the Belgian supporters manifest themselves with the Belgian tricolore, usually with emphasis on red.

1895, the national supporters' federation

After the six uninterrupted qualifications for the World Cup between 1982 and 2002, abruptly the end stages of the five subsequent major tournaments (European and World Championships) were not reached. Despite the efforts, between 2004 and 2010 several journalists and even player Steven Defour described the Belgian footballing nation as being "(deadly) sick".[75][76][77] This severely strained the popularity of the national squad. Some fans kept supporting their team in good and bad days, and the most faithful and notorious one is probably Ludo Rollenberg. This man assisted the matches of the Red Devils in the entire world since 1990, only having missed Belgium at the Japanese Kirin Cup in 1999 and two other matches by 2006.[78] In 2009, he even made the displacement to Armenia as only supporter.[79] In 2008, hope surged when a young (U-23) Belgian generation acquired fourth place at the Olympics in Beijing; several of these players would later appear in the senior national team. Even though the World Cup of 2010 and in extremis the Euro 2012 qualification play-offs were not reached, the popularity and belief in an upcoming major tournament kept rising.

During the qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil the bound with the supporters was further strengthened by means of great actions - "Devil Challenges" - and a Fan Day (see section Actions). Just before the kick-off of the World Cup qualifier at home against Serbia, for the first time the players would see a tifo, measuring 10.5m x 11.5m and depicting a devil composed of the national colours.[80] The many players appearing in a foreign high-level football league (e.g., as of July 2013 twelve Devils would play the next season in the Premier League),[81] promising qualification results under Marc Wilmots and foreign optimistic forecasts[82][83][84] only increased the enthusiasm and belief in World Cup qualification and a good performance in Brazil. Because of this popularity peak of the Red Devils, two Belgian monuments were decorated in national colours for the 2014 FIFA World Cup event: the Manneken Pis statue was given a kid's version of the new World Cup uniform,[85] while facets of the upper sphere of the Atomium building were covered in black, yellow and red.[86]

Popular culture[edit]

Italian-born Rocco Granata sang "De Mondiale" for the 1990 Italy World Cup.[87]

Next to the existence of supporters' clubs, fansites and social networking webpages to share the passion, and the sale of several supporters' items to encourage the national team, other products have been dedicated to the Red Devils. These include books (see Bibliography), a film, comic books and songs. Whether or not with commercial purposes, what most of them share is that they either look forward to an upcoming World Cup or European Championship, or that they look back to the experiences of past major tournaments.

  • Films: In 2005 Buitenspel came out, a picture about a 12-year-old Belgian boy whose dream is to become a member of the Belgian national football squad.[88] This Belgian film is a remake of the 2004 Dutch picture In Oranje.[89]
  • Comics: Comics have a long tradition in Belgium and some Belgian series are world-famous, such as The Adventures of Tintin and The Smurfs. In 2013 a first series about the national team started, titled de Rode Duivels/les Diables Rouges and related to the then upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup; three albums already came out and at least one more would follow.[90] Before this series, two individual books have been published: Eric Castel raconte... allez les Diables Rouges![91] (for the occasion of the 1982 World Cup) and De Rode Duivels. De grote depressie[92] (after the 1998 World Cup).
  • Songs: Since 1970, several Belgian artists have been creating simple, enthousiast songs for the occasion of upcoming World Cups or European Championships.[93] These tunes have not always been official or permitted by the RBFA.[94] The official song for Belgium at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Ta fête, is composed by the Belgian singer-songwriter Stromae.[95]


The national team has been represented by three official mascots, all with anthropomorphous characteristics: a lion in all-red team kit named Diabolix, a red super devil and a fan-made modern devil.[96] In 2012, the Red Devils adopted a red trident as new logo.[97]


The Belgian tricolore flag

Traditionally the squad of Belgium plays at home entirely in colours of the Belgian tricolore, with predominantly red (most of the time the home jerseys were all red). This explains the very commonly used nickname Red Devils. Only at Belgium's third unofficial match in 1902 it was decided to dress the players in a "shirt with national colours (...) [that will indicate,] with a stripe, the number of times every player has participated in an encounter".[17] In their first official match the national team appeared in plain red jerseys, and after a short-lived experiment with "inelegant" satin shirts with three horizontal bands in red, yellow and black,[19][20] Belgium stuck perpetually with their red home jersey.

The away kits have usually been designed in white and/or black, often finished with tricolores at the margins of the jerseys, shorts or socks. In the respective away outfits the players have sometimes been called White Devils or Black Devils, but nowadays Black Devils is the nickname of the Belgian rugby union team. Only in 2014 a third strip was inaugurated, entirely in yellow.[98]


Since their first World Cup participations in the 1930s, at the heart position of the shirt a yellow lion on black background was depicted (a stylized version of the shield in Belgium's coat of arms). From the 1980s on, the lion crest was replaced by the association badge as national emblem.

Kit evolution[edit]

Throughout the football nation's sartorial history, the outfield players wore equipments with the following colour patterns:[98][99][100][101] (In the 1970s, the all-white away kits were also often used during home matches.)

Home kits Away kits Third kit

Six different clothing sponsors have been manufacturing the official team strips:

Some controversy arose after Adidas announced the newest kit (for the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifiers) because the basic design is completely identical to existing Adidas shirts, with only the Belgian crest added.[106][107]



Throughout their history, Belgium have played at 23 home locations in 11 urban areas.[108] Most home games have been disputed at the site of the national King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, which offers place to 50,024 spectators.[109] It is a multifunctional stadium in which also athletic events and concerts are organised. Inaugurated as Jubilee Stadium in 1930 with an unofficial match against Netherlands,[12] and renamed Heysel Stadium in 1946, it underwent a drastical transformation in 1995. From then on, the stadium was named after the late King Baudouin I. At this place, between 1958 and 1996 four European Cup finals and four UEFA Cup Winners Cup finals were played, and several matches from the 1972 and 2000 European Championships were scheduled. During the infamous 1985 European Cup final in the disrepaired Heysel Stadium riots led to the tragic Heysel Stadium disaster, which cost the life of 39 spectators when Liverpool fans charged neutral area.[110]

In May 2013, it was announced that the King Baudouin Stadium would be demolished to create place for housing and that a new stadium would arise nearby at the Heysel.[111] In December of that year the involved parties agreed that this new stadium would no longer contain an athletic track as is currently the case.[112] In September 2014 Brussels was assigned as one of the 13 host cities for the 2020 European Championship, with this upcoming new stadium (Eurostadium) as venue for four tournament matches.[113]

Training grounds

Before upcoming home matches of the national team, only the last trainings are held in the home stadium itself; since 2007, most of the physical preparation usually takes place at the National Football Centre in Tubize.[114]


Belgium (left) and Netherlands lining up before a Low Countries derby in 1960
De Derby der Lage Landen

More than with any other of the four surrounding countries, Belgium maintains an outspoken sportive rivalry with the Netherlands, not in the least in the discipline of association football. This can mainly be explained by the long common history of both countries (they have been together in the Seventeen Provinces and as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands), the similar country sizes and in this case also their shared longlasting passion for football. International sport contests between Belgium and the Netherlands, typically the football matches between the Red Devils and Oranje, are also referred to as Low Countries derbies (Dutch: Derbies der Lage Landen). As the countries maintain good relations, these duels are not covered in a hostile atmosphere, but even in the friendly matches the mood is generally very tense.

Match summary (3'31") of Netherlands-Belgium in May 1930, with end result 2–2

Already as early as in 1901 a first (unofficial) match had place, where the Belgian team featured some Englishmen. Belgium won this home game by 8–0.[17] After three more unofficial Belgian wins,[18] Netherlands won the first official match in 1905 with a 1–4 away win after extra time. One year later, also Belgium achieved its first official win in a Derby (5–0). Belgium and the Netherlands have been defending their honour in many matches, both friendly and competitive ones, for a total of 125 official Derbies. Only Austria vs. Hungary and Argentina vs. Uruguay have been contested more often.[12] Not only did the Low Countries meet 18 times in the framework of major tournaments, they also played 26 friendly cup duels.[108] The overall balance is in favour of the Netherlands: Oranje won 55 duels, the Red Devils 41. Apart from this never-ending sportive struggle, the Belgian and Dutch federations have also put the hands together for different initiatives. In 1926 and 1932 the teams faced off in unofficial matches for charity purposes,[12] and more recently at the international level the federations organized Euro 2000 and (unfruitfully) made a bid to host the 2018 World Cup.[115] At club level in women's football, the competitions from both football nations even merged as BeNe League in 2012.[116]

Le match sympathique

The clash between Belgium and France is also historical; their first encounter which had place on 1 May 1904 was at the same time the first official match for both teams and the first between two countries on the entire European continent.[117] Throughout their history the two teams faced off at numerous occasions, and until the 1970s the selections met almost annually. Belgium is the opponent France dealt with most often in international games, for a total of 72 matches. The overall Franco-Belgian balance is in favour of the Red Devils who won 29 times, while Les Bleus celebrated 24 victories.


The players are surrounded by a staff consisting of technical members, sports scientists and a support team, among which:[118][119][120]

Marc Wilmots (left) and his assistant Vital Borkelmans
Position Staff
Manager Belgium Marc Wilmots
Assistant manager Belgium Vital Borkelmans
Goalkeeping coach Belgium Erwin Lemmens
Fitness coach Belgium Mario Innaurato
Analyst Belgium Herman De Landtsheer
Masseurs Belgium Dirk Nachtergaele
Belgium Johan Demecheleer
Physiotherapists Belgium Bernard Vandevelde
Belgium Geert Neyrinck
Team doctor Belgium Dr. Kris Van Crombrugge
Team manager Belgium Piet Erauw


Current squad[edit]

The following players were convocated for the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifiers against Cyprus and Israel on 28 and 31 March 2015, respectively, and were able to play.[121]

Caps, goals and player numbers are correct as of 31 March 2015 after the game against Israel.[122] Only FIFA-recognised matches are included.[C]

0#0 Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club
1 1GK Thibaut Courtois (1992-05-11) 11 May 1992 (age 22) 29 0 England Chelsea
12 1GK Simon Mignolet (1988-03-06) 6 March 1988 (age 27) 13 0 England Liverpool
13 1GK Jean-François Gillet (1979-05-31) 31 May 1979 (age 35) 9 0 Italy Catania
4 2DF Vincent Kompany (captain) (1986-04-10) 10 April 1986 (age 28) 67 4 England Manchester City
5 2DF Jan Vertonghen (2nd vice-captain) (1987-04-24) 24 April 1987 (age 27) 66 5 England Tottenham Hotspur
2 2DF Toby Alderweireld (1989-03-02) 2 March 1989 (age 26) 45 1 England Southampton
3 2DF Nicolas Lombaerts (1985-03-20) 20 March 1985 (age 30) 33 3 Russia Zenit Saint Petersburg
21 2DF Anthony Vanden Borre (1987-10-24) 24 October 1987 (age 27) 28 1 Belgium Anderlecht
15 2DF Olivier Deschacht (1981-02-16) 16 February 1981 (age 34) 20 0 Belgium Anderlecht
23 2DF Laurent Ciman (1985-08-05) 5 August 1985 (age 29) 9 0 Canada Montreal Impact
18 2DF Jason Denayer (1995-06-28) 28 June 1995 (age 19) 1 0 Scotland Celtic
19 3MF Mousa Dembélé (1987-07-16) 16 July 1987 (age 27) 61 5 England Tottenham Hotspur
8 3MF Marouane Fellaini (1987-11-22) 22 November 1987 (age 27) 60 12 England Manchester United
6 3MF Axel Witsel (1989-01-12) 12 January 1989 (age 26) 56 6 Russia Zenit Saint Petersburg
7 3MF Kevin De Bruyne (1991-06-28) 28 June 1991 (age 23) 30 7 Germany Wolfsburg
22 3MF Nacer Chadli (1989-08-02) 2 August 1989 (age 25) 28 3 England Tottenham Hotspur
16 3MF Radja Nainggolan (1988-05-04) 4 May 1988 (age 26) 10 2 Italy Roma
11 3MF Yannick Ferreira Carrasco (1993-09-04) 4 September 1993 (age 21) 1 0 France Monaco
10 4FW Eden Hazard (1991-01-07) 7 January 1991 (age 24) 55 7 England Chelsea
14 4FW Dries Mertens (1987-05-06) 6 May 1987 (age 27) 35 7 Italy Napoli
9 4FW Christian Benteke (1990-12-03) 3 December 1990 (age 24) 22 7 England Aston Villa
17 4FW Divock Origi (1995-04-18) 18 April 1995 (age 19) 13 3 France Lille
20 4FW Michy Batshuayi (1993-10-02) 2 October 1993 (age 21) 1 1 France Marseille

Recent call-ups[edit]

The following (ex-)players have been selected for Belgium in the past 12 months, but are not part of the current squad.

Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club Latest call-up
GK Sammy Bossut (1985-08-11) 11 August 1985 (age 29) 0 0 Belgium Zulte Waregem 2014 FIFA World Cup
GK Koen Casteels (1992-06-25) 25 June 1992 (age 22) 0 0 Germany Werder Bremen 2014 FIFA World Cup [D]
GK Thomas Kaminski (1992-10-23) 23 October 1992 (age 22) 0 0 Cyprus Anorthosis Famagusta v  Sweden, 1 June 2014
GK Silvio Proto (1983-05-23) 23 May 1983 (age 31) 13 0 Belgium Anderlecht 2014 FIFA World Cup (Preliminary squad) [E]
DF Laurens De Bock Injured INJ (1992-11-07) 7 November 1992 (age 22) 0 0 Belgium Club Brugge v  Cyprus, 28 March 2015
DF Thomas Meunier Injured INJ (1991-09-12) 12 September 1991 (age 23) 3 0 Belgium Club Brugge v  Cyprus, 28 March 2015
DF Jelle Van Damme (1983-10-10) 10 October 1983 (age 31) 31 0 Belgium Standard Liège v  Iceland, 12 November 2014
DF Sébastien Pocognoli (1987-08-01) 1 August 1987 (age 27) 13 0 England West Bromwich Albion v  Iceland, 12 November 2014
DF Guillaume Gillet (1984-03-09) 9 March 1984 (age 31) 21 1 France Bastia v  Australia, 4 September 2014
DF Jordan Lukaku (1994-07-25) 25 July 1994 (age 20) 0 0 Belgium Oostende v  Australia, 4 September 2014
DF Daniel Van Buyten RET (1978-02-07) 7 February 1978 (age 37) 84 10 Retired 2014 FIFA World Cup
DF Thomas Vermaelen Injured (vice-captain) (1985-11-14) 14 November 1985 (age 29) 48 1 Spain Barcelona 2014 FIFA World Cup
MF Dennis Praet (1994-05-14) 14 May 1994 (age 20) 1 0 Belgium Anderlecht v  Wales, 16 November 2014
MF Steven Defour Injured INJ (1988-04-15) 15 April 1988 (age 26) 46 2 Belgium Anderlecht v  Cyprus, 28 March 2015
MF Thorgan Hazard (1993-03-29) 29 March 1993 (age 22) 1 0 Germany Borussia Mönchengladbach v  Australia, 4 September 2014
FW Romelu Lukaku Injured INJ (1993-05-13) 13 May 1993 (age 21) 35 8 England Everton v  Cyprus, 28 March 2015
FW Adnan Januzaj (1995-02-05) 5 February 1995 (age 20) 5 0 England Manchester United v  Wales, 16 November 2014
FW Kevin Mirallas (1987-10-05) 5 October 1987 (age 27) 49 9 England Everton v  Australia, 4 September 2014
  • INJ = Withdrew because of injury
  • RET = Retired from international football
  • Injured = Currently injured or recovering from surgery

Previous squads[edit]

Recent results and forthcoming fixtures[edit]

All matches scheduled since 2014 are listed below. Earlier results can be consulted via the summarizing results page.

all dates in Belgian local time = UTC+1 / UTC+2

      Win       Draw       Loss



Competitive record[edit]

See also the record by opponent

FIFA World Cup[edit]

Belgium reached six successive World Cups from 1982 through 2002 by playing qualification rounds, a record bettered only by Spain whose 2014 World Cup is their eighth consecutive qualification (a streak going back to 1986). On top of that, in that era the Belgian team reached the second phase five out of six times. The preceding five participations between 1930 and 1970 were not as successful, as Belgium never survived the first round. After two scoreless defeats at the inaugurational World Cup in 1930, Belgium scored their first two World Cup goals in 1934 against Germany, by virtue of Bernard Voorhoof. However, both in 1934 and 1938 the Red Devils went out with a single loss. In 1954 they held England at a tie (4–4) and in 1970 they achieved their first World Cup win, against El Salvador (3–0).

Belgium's first ever World Cup match, against the United States in 1930

In the first game of the 1982 FIFA World Cup, held at Camp Nou, Belgium celebrated one of their most famous victories: a 0–1 win over defending champions Argentina with a goal by Erwin Vandenbergh. After pushing through to the second group stage of that tournament, Belgium was stunned by a Polish hat-trick from Zbigniew Boniek. The decisive match against the Soviet Union ended in a 0–1 loss.

Four years later they achieved their best-ever World Cup run when they placed fourth at Mexico 1986. Picked up as the best third-placed team, in the knockout phase Belgium surprisingly won against favourites Soviet Union after extra time (3–4). Different from the previous World Cup, the Red Devils were able to surmount an opponents' hat-trick (this time from Igor Belanov), something that only Brazil and Austria achieved as well in World Cup history (respectively in 1938 and 1954).[126] Belgium also beat Spain on penalties after a 1–1 draw, but they conceded a 2–0 loss against eventual champions Argentina in the semifinal - both goals scored by football icon Diego Maradona. In the third-place match Belgium lost to France (4–2) after extra time. Captain and midfielder Jan Ceulemans and goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff were the first Belgian players to be selected in the All-Star Team of a World Cup. Enzo Scifo was elected as best young player of the tournament.

In their golden era, Belgium featured two goalkeepers who were named the best at that position in the World Cup; Jean-Marie Pfaff (left) in 1986 and Michel Preud'homme (right) in 1994.

In the 1990 FIFA World Cup, Belgium survived the group phase by wins against South Korea and Uruguay (2–0 and 3–1). In the second round they did well against England, dominating the match by periods and with Enzo Scifo even hitting the woodwork twice.[127] With a persisting 0–0 penalties seemed unavoidable, but eventually they lost in the last minute of extra time after a "nearly blind" volley by David Platt.[128] Scifo was elected as second best player of the 1990 World Cup after Lothar Matthäus.[129]

In the 1994 FIFA World Cup two 1–0 wins in round 1 against Morocco and the Netherlands were remarkably not enough to finish second, but Belgium advanced as they were among the best four third-placed teams. In the second round they lost to title defenders Germany (3–2). During this last game, the Belgians were frustrated that Swiss referee Kurt Röthlisberger had not awarded them a penalty kick when German defender Thomas Helmer brought down their striker Josip Weber in the penalty area with a bump from behind.[130] After the match, Röthlisberger was sent home. Michel Preud'homme was elected as best goalkeeper of the tournament.

In 1998 Belgium was one of only two teams, together with hosts and eventual world champions France not to lose a single game. Three draws in the first round – against Netherlands, Mexico and South Korea – proved not enough to reach the knockout stage.

With two ties, the 2002 FIFA World Cup did not start well for Belgium, but the team improved during the tournament. Captain Marc Wilmots was notable for scoring in every match of the first round. Belgium won the decisive group match against Russia with 3–2 and in the second round they had to play against eventual champions Brazil. In this 1/8th final, referee Peter Prendergast disallowed a headed goal by Wilmots that would have given Belgium a 0–1 lead, after a "phantom foul" on Roque Júnior.[131] Eventually Brazil won 2–0, but Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari admitted after this match that Belgium was a tough edge and after the tournament he declared that the match against the Red Devils had been the hardest for Brazil to win.[132] With the World Cup final still to go, the team did win the tournament's fair-play award.[133]

In 2014, Belgium started as group favourites and beat all group opponents with the smallest margin. Thereafter, they played a round of 16 match against the United States in which American goalkeeper Tim Howard made 15 saves,[134][F] crowning himself man of the match.[135] The Red Devils needed the extra time to proceed to the next stage (2–1), where they faced Argentina. In a balanced quarter-final against the Albiceleste, the World Cup ended for Belgium as they failed to equalize after Gonzalo Higuaín's early goal.

     Champions       Runners-up       Third place       Fourth place

*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks.

European Championship[edit]

Line-ups for the UEFA Euro 1980 Final in which Belgium (red) faced the European vice-champion West Germany (white)

Belgium's performance in the European Championship does not match its World Cup record. Belgium hosted or co-hosted the event twice, finishing third in 1972 after a 2–1 win over Hungary (when they were chosen amongst the four semi-finalists to host the event) and being one of the major disappointments of the 2000 edition with a first-round exit. The best result is no doubt the unexpected second place at the 1980 edition in Italy. By finishing first in their group, before football nations Italy, England and Spain, Belgium reached the final in which they faced West Germany. After the German opener from Horst Hrubesch and the penalty equalizer from René Vandereycken, the match seemed to go in extra time. Two minutes before the end of the regular playing time, Hrubesch's second goal for Die Adler ended the Belgian dream of winning a first major (non-Olympic) tournament. At their first two European Championship participations, two Belgians appeared in the UEFA Team of the tournament: forward Raoul Lambert in 1972, and midfielder Jan Ceulemans in 1980.[136]

At Euro 1984 the road to the knockout stage seemed open after taking a 0–2 lead in their last group match against Denmark, but the Red Devils could not prevent Danish Dynamite to turn the tide in their favour (3–2). 16 years later Belgium reappeared at a European Championship, as Euro 2000 co-hosts. The premature exit they suffered there was fairly unexpected since Belgium played well during the eight preparational matches for Euro 2000 under Robert Waseige. They won three friendlies convincingly and only lost once, by a narrow 2–1 against England. Belgium won the tournament's opening match against Sweden with 2–1.[137] After a 2–0 loss against eventual tournament's runners-up Italy, they needed one more point to move ahead to the quarter-finals. In their last group match, however, they lost 2–0 against Turkey (with both goals scored by Hakan Şükür). The tournament also meant the dramatic end of Filip De Wilde's international career; the terrible errors of the unfortunate Belgian goalkeeper led to Sweden's goal by Johan Mjällby, Turkey's first goal, and himself being sent off for attacking the Turkish player Arif Erdem outside the penalty area.

     Champions       Runners-up       Third place       Fourth place

Red border colour indicates tournament was (at least partially) held on home soil.

Summer Olympics[edit]

At the 1920 Olympic football final, Robert Coppée opened the score with a penalty kick past Czechoslovak goalkeeper Rudolf Klapka.

The Belgium national football team participated in all three editions of the Summer Olympics in the 1920s and won the Olympic Gold Medal on home soil in 1920. Belgium won their first two games (3–1 versus Spain and 3–0 against the Netherlands) and took a 2–0 lead in the final against Czechoslovakia. Forward Robert Coppée gave Belgium an early advantage by converting a discussed penalty, and also the action in which Henri Larnoe doubled the score was matter of debate. After the expulsion of the Czechoslovak left-back Karel Steiner, the discontented visiting players left the pitch in the 40th minute. Afterwards, the away team reported their reasons for protest to the Olympic organisation.[139] These protests were dismissed and the Czechoslovaks got disqualified; the 2–0 score was allowed to stand and Belgium received the gold medal.[25] The key player of the victorious Belgian Olympic team was Coppée, who also scored a hat-trick in the match against Spain.

Remark: only in six Summer Olympics editions between 1908 and 1936, Olympic football tournaments for proper senior men's national football teams had place. In 1900 a Belgian representation of Université de Bruxelles won bronze, and in 2008 Belgium's U-23 selection placed fourth, but their results are not shown here. Olympic Summer Games editions where no actual national football teams competed are indicated in italics.

     Gold       Silver       Bronze

Red border colour indicates tournament was held on home soil.

Minor tournaments[edit]

Belgium vs. Netherlands Cups[edit]

Illustration of the first Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad Beker in Rotterdam in 1905[140]

From their first matches onwards, Belgium and the Netherlands played in their friendly duels for cups. During the encounters in Belgium the teams played for the Coupe Vanden Abeele (nicknamed Het Koperen Dingetje, meaning "The Copper Thingie") until 1925, and in the friendlies in the Netherlands they played for the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad Beker until 1923, for a total of 26 Belgian-Dutch friendly cup matches.[108] The cup awarded in Belgium was named after and initially handed out by Frédéric Vanden Abeele Sr., father of the secretary of Beerschot Athletic Club (where the tournament took place until 1925).[21]

Red border colour indicates tournament was held on home soil.
*Excluding the 4 trophies between 1901 and 1904 that were won by a 'Belgian' selection, as these matches are unofficial


     Winners       Runners-up       Third place

Red border colour indicates tournament was held on home soil.
*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks.


Left: Belgium's Olympic gold medallists of 1920 / Right: One of the 154 (identical) gold medals awarded at the 1920 Summer Olympics

Major tournaments[edit]

Icons-mini-icon world.gif FIFA World Cup[142]
Fourth place (1): 1986
Europe map.png UEFA European Championship[143][144]
Runners-up Silver medal europe.svg (1): 1980
Third place Bronze medal europe.svg (1): 1972
Olympic flag border.png Olympic football tournament[25]
Gold Medal Gold medal.svg (1): 1920

Other awards[edit]

An overview of all tournament wins and other awards can be found here.


The Belgian football team has been under the supervision of 23 different permanent managers and 2 caretakers from 1910 on.[108][145] Before 1910 and in 1919, a committee of the Belgian FA presided by Édouard de Laveleye selected the players. Initially being supervised by foreigners, it would last until 1930 before team Belgium was officially led by a Belgian (Hector Goetinck). The function of the national manager varied over time; for instance, during the 10 years that Constant Vanden Stock selected the players, the Red Devils were consecutively trained by Viktor Havlicek (1958–60), Henri Dekens (1960–61), Arthur Ceuleers (1961–65) and Raymond Goethals (1966–68).

As of 31 March 2015, the current coach Marc Wilmots is the most successful (permanent) manager that Belgium has ever had, with an average of 2.21 points per match. Before him, the statistically best manager was Goethals. The coach that brought Belgium most successes at international tournament end stages was Guy Thys, who led his team to the 1980 European Championship final and six years later to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Mexico.

Last updated: Israel vs. Belgium, 31 March 2015. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.
*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks.
**Abbreviations: SO = Summer Olympics, WC = World Cup, EC = European Championship
(1), (2): first term, second term
ct : caretaker manager


Vincent Kompany of Manchester City is the current captain of the national side.

Belgium has been led by at least 87 different captains so far;[147] 84 different players started an international game as captain,[108] but due to substitutions the total number is higher. The first player to lead the squad was Camille Van Hoorden;[148] the player who started in the leader role mosten often is Jan Ceulemans (48 times).[149] At least 15 pure forwards and eight goalkeepers have fulfilled this role but in the majority of the cases players in defensive positions and midfielders were assigned as captain, as is usually the case in association football. Until 2011 under Dick Advocaat and Georges Leekens the former Belgium U-23 captain Thomas Vermaelen was chosen as national squad's leader, but after having left the captaincy to Vincent Kompany during an injury period Kompany would become the new permanent captain.[4]

All-time captain list[edit]

See also Belgium national football team records#Captains.

In the following (hidden) table it is shown which Belgian players started international games as captain, and during which period. Players that received the captain's armband because of a substitution during a match are not counted.

  Players still active for Belgium are highlighted

Last updated: Belgium vs. Israel, 31 March 2015. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.


Jan Ceulemans
For more details on this topic, see Belgium national football team records.
See also List of Belgium international footballers and Progression of Belgium association football caps record.
  • Belgium's biggest wins were against San Marino (10–1, in 2001) and Zambia (9–0, in 1994).[11] Their longest run of consecutive victories is 7 wins (in two periods) and their unbeaten record is 14 official games in a row without a loss.
  • The player with most caps is Jan Ceulemans, who featured in the national team 96 times between 1977 and 1991 (8256 minutes played);[71] the player with the longest career span is Hector Goetinck, whose appearance at the international level ended 17 years, 6 months and 10 days after his debut.
  • Apart from having gathered most caps, Jan Ceulemans also started most often as team captain (48 times).
  • The youngest player to feature in the senior team was Fernand Nisot, at the age of 16 years and 19 days.

Belgian League XI[edit]

In the early 1970s, a selection of the best players in the Belgian First Division played some matches against selections of other countries' top divisions (among others two against Italy's National League team).[151] The squad featured mainly Belgian international football players and just like the Belgian national team at that time it was also managed by Raymond Goethals, but it was no proper national team as some foreigners were included as well. The Dutch sports columnist and former Anderlecht striker Jan Mulder wrote about his unique experience as "half Red Devil", when he was selected for a home match of the Belgian League XI against the Italian League team on 15 December 1971.[152] Mulder was warmly welcomed in the group by Goethals with knocks on the chest and the words "You can do it, strong Hollander, you can do it, kicking the Italianer knockout!". After he made the 2–1 winning goal in the 84th minute,[151] the trainer embraced him and shouted multiple times "Haven't I said it!".[153]

See also[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.
  2. ^ Note that this match is not considered to be a full international by the English FA, and does not appear in the records of the England team.
  3. ^ 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.[123]
  4. ^ Withdrew due to injury on 3 June 2014
  5. ^ Withdrew due to injury on 18 May 2014
  6. ^ FIFA's initial match statistics showed 16 saves, and many news sources continue to use this number. The official FIFA statistics were updated on July 5, 2014 to show 15 saves.
  7. ^ The joint bid from Belgium and the Netherlands was preferred to the individual bids of Spain and Austria.[138]
  8. ^ According to the "three points for a win" standard
  9. ^ Even though William Maxwell was the official manager then, in the tournament the squad was coached by Raoul Daufresne.
  10. ^ Belgium withdrew from the qualifiers.
  11. ^ Belgium did not enter the qualifiers.
  12. ^ Wilmots was only a caretaker in his first two matches against Montenegro and England.[1] In June, first the player group and later also the Belgian Football Association chose him as permanent coach.[2][146]
  13. ^ 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.[123]
  14. ^ 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.[123]


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External links[edit]