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 Marc Wilmots[1]
Asst coach Vital Borkelmans[2]
Captain Vincent Kompany[3]
Vice-captain Thomas Vermaelen[4]
Most caps Jan Ceulemans (96)[5]
Top scorer Bernard Voorhoof (30)[5]
Paul Van Himst (30)[5]
Home stadium King Baudouin Stadium
FIFA code BEL
FIFA ranking 3 Increase 1 (9 April 2015)
Highest FIFA ranking 3 (April 2015)
Lowest FIFA ranking 71 (June 2007)
Elo ranking 11 (15 April 2015)[6]
Highest Elo ranking 2 (September 1920[7])
Lowest Elo ranking 74 (September 2009[7])
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[C] has represented Belgium in association football since 1904.

It is controlled by the Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA), the governing body for football in Belgium. As the RBFA co-founded FIFA and UEFA,[8][9] the national squad is affiliated to both international football organisations. Since 1906, the side has been colloquially referred to as The Red Devils.[D] The majority of their home matches are held at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.

Periods of regular Belgian representation at the highest international level, before 1940 and from 1970 until 2002, were interspersed with major difficulties to qualify. Achievements in international tournaments include the 1920 Olympic Football Gold Medal, runner-up in the 1980 UEFA European Championship and a fourth-place finish at the 1986 FIFA World Cup. Between 1954 and 2002, the team won matches against four reigning world champions (West Germany, Brazil, Argentina and France).[10]

Belgium maintains a longstanding rivalry with their Netherlands equivalent, having played biannually between 1905 and 1964 (excluding the war periods) and less frequently since.[10] Jan Ceulemans holds the record for appearances, having played 96 times for the national side between 1977 and 1991. Bernard Voorhoof and Paul Van Himst share the scoring record, with a tally of 30 goals each. The team is backed by a supporters' federation named 1895.

History[edit]

Early years (1901–19)[edit]

Belgium was the first mainland European country to play association football, after the sport was introduced from Britain and Ireland in 1860.[11][12] Over the following decades, it supplanted rugby as the most popular national football sport.[13] 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.[14] After some organisational difficulties, a first tournament (Challenge F. Vanden Abeele) was played between a Belgian selection and a Dutch team on 28 April 1901. The results were in Belgium's favour, its team defeating Netherlands by 8–0[15] and going on to win three follow-up games.[16][17] However, these results were not recognised by FIFA since the Belgian team contained some English players.[16]

The Belgian team before making their international debut in 1904

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.[18]

Belgium would play twice a year against the 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] Until 1925, Belgian-Dutch cup trophies would be awarded in the "Low Countries derby".[21]

In 1906, Leopold FC manager and journalist Pierre Walckiers was the first to nickname the players Red Devils, inspired by 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.[22] Walckiers wrote in his match report about the last game in La Vie Sportive, the RBFA magazine, that they behaved as petits diables rouges ("little red devils"); 15 years later, also Dutch press started using this nickname.[23]

In 1910, former Scottish footballer William Maxwell was assigned as first manager of the Red Devils. Under his charge, Alphonse Six made his international debut; Six was one of Belgium's greatest players in the prewar period and was regarded as the most skillful attacker outside the British Isles.[24] Football was suspended during World War I, with no national games hosted or played between 1915 and 1918;[25] regrettably, Six was killed in action at age 24.[26]

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

1930–1980 Belgium lion emblem

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. Striker Ray Braine was one of the most talented Belgian players in the 1920s–1930s era.[27]

International football tournaments were suspended in the 1940s following the outbreak of World War II. A number of gifted players also left the team between 1948 and 1954, including attackers Rik Coppens, Jef Mermans and Pol Anoul, and centre back Louis Carré.[24] Belgium qualified for only one out of eight major tournaments in the 1950s and 1960s: the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland.

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. These were 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.[28] In the early 1970s Goethals trained another 'Belgian' senior selection that consisted of the best players in the Belgian First Division,[29] but it was no proper national team as some foreigners were included as well.[30][31] After 1972, the next three attempts to qualify for a major tournament were all in vain. 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]

Guy Thys coached Belgium to 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.[35] Under the leadership of Guy Thys, who coached more than 100 official games,[25] they established a reputation of being a physical, well-organised team that was difficult to play against.[36][37]

Between 1982 and 2002, Belgium qualified for every FIFA World Cup and mostly 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. 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 (where they finished second), Belgium did not convince anymore at the continental level, with early exits in their two appearances at the Euro 1984 and Euro 2000 tournaments.

In this period, the team featured 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. After the 2002 World Cup, other valuable veterans stopped playing with the national side, including Marc Wilmots and Gert Verheyen. Coach Waseige left as well, with Aimé Anthuenis superseding.[38][39]

Setbacks and new hope (2003–11)[edit]

From 2003 on, Belgium failed to qualify for five major international tournaments in a row, and as many head coaches came and went. Anthuenis' contract was not renewed beyond 2005 after missing out Euro 2004 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup. René Vandereycken replaced him in early 2006,[40] but gradually the team slipped to an all-time low 71st position in the FIFA World Rankings in June 2007. After failing to qualify for Euro 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, coach Vandereycken was sacked in April 2009.[41] 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 whom would grow into the senior national team, were characterised 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 the then lowly ranked team of Armenia (125th on the FIFA World Rankings) in September 2009,[42] interim coach Vercauteren resigned and made way for new coach Dick Advocaat.[43][44] However, after only six months at the helm, Advocaat also resigned amid speculation that he was to become coach of Russia.[45] Georges Leekens was announced as his successor in May 2010, signing a contract until 2012.[46] Under Leekens, the Red Devils narrowly missed the Euro 2012 play-offs.

New golden generation (2012–present)[edit]

The Belgian team in 2013

Leekens left in May 2012 and signed for Club Brugge.[47] Marc Wilmots (assistant manager since 2009) was asked to replace Leekens and under his reign, the team improved, rising to a then-high of fifth on the FIFA World Rankings in October 2013.[48] By 2013, several foreign media regarded this Belgian national side during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers as a new golden generation.[49][50][51][52] 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 goalkeepers Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet. Belgium finally qualified as group winners after eight wins and two draws. At the 2014 World Cup finals, the young 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).[53] Players such as Divock Origi and Radja Nainggolan added up to the offensive potential of his squad. As of early 2015, 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 third in April 2015.

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.[54]

Decades later, television became the more popular medium to follow the matches. As 59 per cent of the Belgians speak Dutch (mostly Flemings) and 41 per cent speak French (mostly Walloons and Brussels inhabitants), the matches of the Belgian national football team are broadcast in both languages. Less than one per cent speak German; they regularly follow the matches in French. During Belgium's tournament appearances in the 1980s and early 1990s, Rik De Saedeleer crowned himself the nation's most famous sports commentator with his emotional and humorous match reports.[55] Initially the matches have been broadcast mainly on public channels (the former BRTN in Dutch and the RTBF in French), but since 1994 also commercial channels have been purchasing the emission rights, such as vtm (with sister channel Kanaal 2) and VIER in Flanders.[56] The Belgian broadcasting right holders for the Euro 2016 qualifiers are VRT, RTBF and cable broadband providers BeTV and Telenet.[57] The 8th final against the United States at the 2014 World Cup is the most-watched television program in Belgian history, with a total audience of over four million viewers out of 11.2 million Belgian citizens.[58]

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").[59] In the same month, Telenet announced it would emit an eight-piece documentary about individual players, Rode Helden ("Red Heroes").[60]

Actions[edit]

  • Actions for the fans: During the qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, a string of interactive actions was organised: the so-called Devil Challenges.[61] The premise was that small groups of international players 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", etc.), all of which were convincingly accomplished.[62] In June 2013 the Red Devils welcomed over 20,000 supporters at their first ever Fan Day;[63] a second edition was held after the 2014 World Cup.[64] 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)[65] took place in the cities of Antwerp, Brussels and Charleroi.[66]
  • Charity support: Two unofficial matches against Netherlands in 1926 and 1932 served as fundraiser for benefactions.[67] 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 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.[68] In August 2013, the national team supported the social charity fund Football+ Foundation by playing an A-match with a plus sign on the shoulders of their jerseys, and by afterwards auctioning these shirts.[69] The gains went to four social projects supporting handicapped people, homeless, vulnerable youngsters and socially deprived groups, respectively.[70]
  • Anti-racism campaigns: In 2002, the national squad posed with "Colour-rich exercising together"/"Red card for Racism"-messages,[71] and in 2010 a home Euro 2012 qualifier stood in the theme of "Respect for diversity". This action was supported by the UEFA and made part of the European FARE Action Week.[72] Ex-Red Devil Dimitri Mbuyu (first black Belgium player, in 1987)[73][74] engaged himself as godfather for this action, and also other (ex-)players of foreign origin in the Belgian competition participated.

Support[edit]

While bicycle racing is the traditional national sport of Belgium, football has become the most popular.[13] The most beautiful moment for the Red Devils and their fans was probably in the summer of 1986, when a 'joyous entry' took place for the Belgian delegation that had finished 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 a major tournament had just been won.[75] Contrary to the Scottish "Tartan Army" and the Danish "Roligans" the supporters of the Belgian national team have not earned themselves a nickname yet. But, 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.[76] 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 consecutive qualifications for the World Cup between 1982 and 2002, the national team abruptly failed to reach the end stages of the five subsequent major tournaments (European and World Championships). Despite the efforts, between 2004 and 2010, several journalists and even player Steven Defour described the Belgian footballing nation as being "(deadly) sick".[77][78][79] This severely strained the popularity of the national squad. Some fans kept supporting their team in good and bad days, the most faithful and notorious one probably being Ludo Rollenberg: this man supported the matches of the Red Devils in the entire world since 1990, only having missed Belgium at the Kirin Cup in 1999 and two other matches by 2006.[80] In 2009, he even made the displacement to Armenia as only supporter.[81]

In 2008, hope surged when a young (U-23) Belgian team 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 continued to rise again.

During the qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the bond with supporters was further strengthened by means of interactive actions called the Devil Challenges, as well as a Fan Day (see section Actions). Just before the kick-off of the home qualifier against Serbia, the players would for the first time see a tifo, measuring 10.5 by 11.5 metres and depicting a devil composed of the national colours.[82] 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),[83] promising qualification results under Marc Wilmots and foreign optimistic forecasts[84][85][86] only increased the enthusiasm and belief in a successful World Cup qualification and end stage. Because of this popularity peak, 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,[87] while facets of the upper sphere of the Atomium building were covered in black, yellow and red.[88]

Popular culture[edit]

Italian-born Rocco Granata sang "De Mondiale" for the 1990 Italy World Cup.[89]

Aside of sharing the passion through supporters' clubs, fansites and social networking webpages, and encouraging the national team through the sale of several supporters' items, other products have also been dedicated to the Red Devils. These include books (see Bibliography), a film, comic books and songs. Regardless of commercial purpose, they all share either a look forward to an upcoming major tournament, or a look back to past experiences.

  • Films: In 2005 Buitenspel came out, a picture about a 12-year-old Belgian boy whose dream is to become a member of the national squad.[90] This Belgian film is a remake of the 2004 Dutch picture In Oranje.[91]
  • Comics: Comics have a long tradition in Belgium and some 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. It also related to the then upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup and would count at least three albums.[92] Before this series, two individual comic books have been published, related to the 1982 and 1998 World Cups.[93][94]
  • Songs: Since 1970, several Belgian artists have been creating simple, enthusiast songs for the occasion of upcoming World Cups or European Championships.[95] These tunes have not always been official or permitted by the RBFA.[96] The official song for Belgium at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Ta fête, was composed by Belgian singer-songwriter Stromae.[97]

[edit]

The national team has had three official anthropomorphous mascots: a lion in team kit named Diabolix, a red super devil and a fan-made modern devil.[98] In 2012, the Red Devils adopted a red trident as new logo.[99]

Uniform[edit]

Colours
The Belgian tricolore flag

Traditionally the squad of Belgium plays at home entirely in colours of the Belgian tricolore, predominantly red—most of the time even all red. This explains the very common 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".[15] In their first official match, the national team appeared in plain red jerseys, and after a short-lived experiment with satin shirts with three horizontal bands in red, yellow and black (that were regarded as inelegant),[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 equipment. In these away outfits the players have sometimes been called White or Black Devils, but nowadays the latter is the nickname of the Belgian rugby union team. Only in 2014 a third kit was inaugurated, entirely in yellow.[100]

Crest

Since their first World Cup participations in the 1930s, a yellow lion on black background was depicted at the heart position of the shirt. This was a stylised 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]

See also the kits at major tournaments.

Throughout the football nation's sartorial history, the outfield players wore equipments with the following colour patterns:[100][101][102][103] (In the 1970s, the all-white away kits were also often used during home matches.)

Home kits Away kits Third kit
1904,
1905–57
1904–05
-
1958–72
-
1980,
2006–10
1981–2006,
2010–current
1910–46
-
1961–66
-
1970–98,
2007–10
1999–2004,
2011–current
2006
-
2014
-

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.[107][108]

Home stadium[edit]

Throughout their history, Belgium have played at 23 home locations in 11 urban areas.[25] Most home games have been disputed at the site of the national King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, a multifunctional stadium that offers place to 50,024 spectators.[109] Inaugurated as Jubilee Stadium in 1930 with an unofficial Low Countries derby,[67] 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.

Four European Cup finals and four UEFA Cup Winners' Cup finals were played at this location, as well as several matches from the 1972 and 2000 European Championships. During the infamous 1985 European Cup final in the disrepaired Heysel Stadium, riots led to the tragic Heysel Stadium disaster, which cost the lives of 39 spectators when Liverpool fans charged a 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 Plateau.[111] This new stadium, to be called Eurostadium, will 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 the upcoming 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]

Rivalries[edit]

Low Countries derby
Belgium (left) and Netherlands lining up before a Low Countries derby in 1960

Belgium maintains an outspoken sports 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 long-lasting passion for football. International sports 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 the mood is generally very tense even in the friendly matches.

Match summary (3'31") of Netherlands-Belgium in 1930 (2–2)

As early as 1901, a first (unofficial) match already took place in which the Belgian team, featuring four Englishmen, won by 8–0.[15] After three more unofficial Belgian wins (1–0, 2–1, 6–4),[17] the Netherlands won the first official match in 1905 with a 1–4 away win after extra time. One year later, Belgium registered its own first official Derby win (5–0). The two countries continued to face off quite often, for a total of 125 official Derbies so far.[E] Only Austria vs. Hungary and Argentina vs. Uruguay have been contested more often.[67] Not only did the Low Countries meet 18 times in the framework of major tournaments, they also played 26 friendly cup duels.[25] The overall balance is in favour of the Netherlands: Oranje won 55 duels, the Red Devils 41. Apart from this never-ending sports struggle, the Belgian and Dutch federations also co-operated in diverse initiatives. In 1926 and 1932 the teams faced off in unofficial matches for charity purposes,[67] and more recently at the international level the federations organised Euro 2000 and made an unfruitful 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 in 1904 was the first official match for both teams and was at the same time the first between two countries on the entire European continent.[117] Throughout their history the two teams duelled at numerous occasions; until the 1970s they even met almost annually. Belgium is the opponent France dealt with most often in international games, for a total of 72 matches.[F] The overall Franco-Belgian balance is in favour of the Red Devils who won 29 times, while Les Bleus celebrated 24 victories.

Staff[edit]

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

Players[edit]

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.[G]

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 Injured (captain) (1986-04-10) 10 April 1986 (age 29) 67 4 England Manchester City
5 2DF Jan Vertonghen (2nd vice-captain) (1987-04-24) 24 April 1987 (age 28) 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 20) 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 [H]
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) [I]
DF Laurens De Bock 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 INJ (1988-04-15) 15 April 1988 (age 27) 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 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 after the 2014 FIFA World Cup are listed below. Earlier results can be consulted via the summarizing results page.

2014[edit]

2015[edit]

Competitive record[edit]

See also the record by opponent.

FIFA World Cup[edit]

Belgium were not yet successful during their first five participations at the World Cup as they never survived the first round. After two scoreless defeats at the inaugurational World Cup in 1930, the team did score in their first round knock-out games in 1934 and 1938—but only enough to save their honour. In 1954 they held England to 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

From 1982 through 2002, Belgium reached six successive World Cups by playing qualification rounds, and reached the second phase five out of six times. In the first game of the 1982 FIFA World Cup, Belgium celebrated a famous 0–1 win over defending champions Argentina. Their tournament ended however in the second group stage, after a Polish hat-trick from Zbigniew Boniek and a 0–1 loss against the Soviet Union. Four years later they achieved their best-ever World Cup run when they placed fourth at Mexico 1986. In the knockout phase Belgium surprisingly won against favourites Soviet Union after extra time (3–4). They also beat Spain on penalties after a 1–1 draw, but conceded a 2–0 loss against eventual champions Argentina in the semifinal (a brace by football icon Diego Maradona). In the 1990 FIFA World Cup, Belgium met England in the second round. They dominated this match by periods, with Enzo Scifo even hitting the woodwork twice,[37] but eventually lost in the final minute of extra time after a "nearly blind" volley by David Platt.[126] In 1994, Belgium stranded in the second round again as they lost to title defenders Germany (3–2). In 1998, three draws in the first round proved too little to reach the knockout stage. With two ties, the 2002 FIFA World Cup did not start well for Belgium either, but the team won the decisive group match against Russia with 3–2. In the second round they faced eventual champions Brazil. After Marc Wilmots' headed opening goal was disallowed due to a "phantom foul" on Roque Júnior,[127] Brazil won by 2–0.

In 2014, Belgium beat all group opponents with the smallest margin. Thereafter, they played a spectacular round of 16 match against the United States in which American goalkeeper Tim Howard made 15 saves[128][K] but the Red Devils won in extra time (2–1). In a balanced quarter-final, Argentina eliminated Belgium by 1–0.

     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 West Germany

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 team's best result is no doubt the unexpected second place at the 1980 edition in Italy. By finishing first in their group, Belgium reached the final in which they faced West Germany. After the German opener from Horst Hrubesch and the penalty equaliser 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 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. After winning the tournament's opening match against Sweden with 2–1,[129] and losing 2–0 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.

     Champions       Runners-up       Third place       Fourth place


Summer Olympics[edit]

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

The Belgian team participated in all three editions of the Summer Olympics football tournaments 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 had given Belgium an early advantage by converting a discussed penalty, and also the action in which Henri Larnoe had doubled the score was a 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.[131] These protests were dismissed and the Czechoslovaks got disqualified; the 2–0 score was allowed to stand and Belgium received the gold medal.[24] 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 took 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

Minor tournaments[edit]

Belgium vs. Netherlands Cups[edit]

Left: The Coupe Vanden Abeele / Right: Illustration of the first Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad Beker duel in Rotterdam in 1905[132]

From their first friendly derbies onwards, Belgium and the Netherlands competed for floating trophies. During the encounters in Belgium the teams played for the Coupe Vanden Abeele until 1925, and in the friendlies in the Netherlands they played for the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad Beker until 1923, for a total of 30 Belgian-Dutch friendly cup matches (of which 26 official internationals).[25] 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).[21] As the Dutch disliked the design of this Belgian cup, they quickly nicknamed it Het Koperen Dingetje, meaning "The Little Thing of Copper".[133]

*Excluding the 4 trophies between 1901 and 1904 that were won by a 'Belgian' selection, as these matches are unofficial

Other[edit]

     Winners       Runners-up       Third place

*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks.


Honours[edit]

Left: Belgium's Olympic gold medallists of 1920 / Right: One of the 154 (identical) gold medals awarded at the 1920 Summer Olympics
Icons-mini-icon world.gif FIFA World Cup[135]
Fourth place (1): 1986
Europe map.png UEFA European Championship[136][137]
Runners-up Silver medal europe.svg (1): 1980
Third place Bronze medal europe.svg (1): 1972
Olympic flag border.png Olympic football tournament[24]
Gold Medal Gold medal.svg (1): 1920

Managers[edit]

The Belgian football team has been under the supervision of 23 different permanent managers and two caretakers since 1910.[25][138] Before 1910 and in 1919, a committee of the RBFA presided by Édouard de Laveleye selected the players. Initially supervised by foreigners, it would take until 1930 for team Belgium to be 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 April 2015, coach Marc Wilmots is the most successful (permanent) manager that Belgium has ever had in statistical terms, with an average of 2.21 points per match. 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


Captains[edit]

As of early 2015, Vincent Kompany is the captain of the national side.

Belgium has been led by at least 87 different captains so far;[141] 84 different players started an international game as captain,[25] but due to substitutions the total number is higher. 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 during an injury period he left the captaincy to Vincent Kompany, who became the new permanent captain.[3]

All-time captain list[edit]

The following (hidden) table shows 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: Israel vs. Belgium, 31 March 2015. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches only.



Records[edit]

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) and Zambia (9–0).[10] Their longest chain of victories is seven wins (in two periods) and their unbeaten record is 14 official games in a row.
  • The player with most caps is Jan Ceulemans, who featured in the national team 96 times (8256 minutes played);[73] the player with the longest career span is Hector Goetinck (17 years, 6 months and 10 days).
  • The all-time Belgian topscorers are Bernard Voorhoof and Paul Van Himst, with a tally of 30 goals each. The players who scored most goals in one match are Robert De Veen, Bert De Cleyn and Josip Weber (5); De Veen also holds the hat-trick record (3).
  • Apart from having gathered most caps, 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.
  • Belgium's highest rank on the FIFA World Rankings, officially introduced in 1992, was third (in April 2015);[42] Belgium's all-time high on the long-term World Football Elo Ratings was second (from 2 till 5 September 1920).[7]

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.
  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. ^ Dutch: Belgisch voetbalelftal
    French: Équipe belge de football
    German: Belgische Fußballnationalmannschaft
  4. ^ Dutch: De Rode Duivels
    French: Les Diables Rouges
    German: Die Roten Teufel
  5. ^ as of 2014
  6. ^ as of 2014
  7. ^ 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]
  8. ^ Withdrew due to injury on 3 June 2014
  9. ^ Withdrew due to injury on 18 May 2014
  10. ^ If none of both countries participates in the UEFA Euro 2016 play-offs[125]
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ The joint bid from Belgium and the Netherlands was preferred to the individual bids of Spain and Austria.[130]
  13. ^ According to the "three points for a win" standard
  14. ^ Even though William Maxwell was the official manager then, in the tournament the squad was coached by Raoul Daufresne.
  15. ^ Belgium withdrew from the qualifiers.
  16. ^ Belgium did not enter the qualifiers.
  17. ^ During a 2001 friendly draw against Czech Republic, assistants Vince Briganti and Jacky Munaron managed the team as Waseige recovered from cardiac bypass surgery.[138]
  18. ^ Wilmots was only a caretaker in his first two matches against Montenegro and England.[139] In June, first the player group and later also the Belgian Football Association chose him as permanent coach.[1][140]
  19. ^ 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]
  20. ^ 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]