Belgium national football team
|Nickname(s)||De Rode Duivels
Les Diables Rouges
Die Roten Teufel
(The Red Devils)
|Association||Royal Belgian Football Association (KBVB/URBSFA/KBFV)[A]|
|Head coach||Marc Wilmots|
|Most caps||Jan Ceulemans (96)|
|Top scorer||Bernard Voorhoof and
Paul Van Himst (30)
|Home stadium||King Baudouin Stadium|
|FIFA ranking||2 1 (6 August 2015)|
|Highest FIFA ranking||2 (June 2015, August 2015)|
|Lowest FIFA ranking||71 (June 2007)|
|Elo ranking||11 (7 August 2015)|
|Highest Elo ranking||2 (September 1920)|
|Lowest Elo ranking||74 (September 2009)|
| Belgium 3–3 France
(Brussels, Belgium; 1 May 1904)
| Belgium 9–0 Zambia
(Brussels, Belgium; 4 June 1994)
Belgium 10–1 San Marino
(Brussels, Belgium; 28 February 2001)
| England Amateurs 11–2 Belgium
(London, England; 17 April 1909)[B]
|Appearances||12 (First in 1930)|
|Best result||Fourth place, 1986|
|Appearances||4 (First in 1972)|
|Best result||Runners-up, 1980|
The Belgian national football team[C] has officially 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 the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the Belgian squad is affiliated to both international football organisations. Periods of regular Belgian representation at the highest international level, between 1920 and 1938 and from 1970 until 2002, were alternated with major difficulties to qualify. Most of their home matches are held at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.
With respect to the quadrennial major football contests they competed in, Belgium appeared in twelve FIFA World Cup end stages and four UEFA European Football Championships, and won the 1920 Olympic football gold medal. Other notable performances of the national team were their victories against four reigning world champions between 1954 and 2002—West Germany, Brazil, Argentina and France. The Belgians maintain longstanding football rivalries with their Netherlands equivalent and the French national side, having played almost yearly against both teams until the 1970s. Since 1906, the Belgian side has been colloquially referred to as the Red Devils.[D] The team is backed by a supporters' federation named 1895.
In 1900, the first intention to create a team with Belgium's best players became public. The three Belgian participations at the Olympic football tournaments in the 1920s were followed by four decades without a win at any major tournament end stage. Around 1970, striker Paul Van Himst featured—often regarded as Belgium's greatest footballer ever—, and the national team experienced a short revival. Later, the team went through two golden ages with multiple very gifted players: the 1980s until early 1990s, and the early 2010s. The first of these generations became runner-up at Euro 1980 and finished fourth at the 1986 World Cup.
The last European qualifiers Belgium's national team survived were those for Euro 1984, but they also appeared at Euro 2000, as co-hosts. Under guidance of Marc Wilmots, they reached the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals and climbed to an all-time high of second at the FIFA World Rankings. For the draws of the qualifying groups for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, Belgium was both times seeded in the first UEFA pot.
- 1 History
- 2 Uniform
- 3 Home stadium
- 4 Rivalries
- 5 Management
- 6 Players
- 7 Records and fixtures
- 8 Competitive record
- 9 Team image
- 10 Honours
- 11 See also
- 12 Footnotes
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
Early years (1901–1919)
Belgium was the first mainland European country to play association football, after an Irish student walked with a leather ball into the Josephites College of Melle on 26 October 1863, and British teachers helped to spread the sport in schools. Initially being a very elitary pastime, over the following decades it supplanted rugby as the most popular national football sport. On 1 September 1895, 10 clubs for practice of football, athletics, cricket and cycling created the Belgian sports union UBSSA;[E] one year later the first league in Belgian football was held.
On 11 October 1900, Beerschot AC president of honour Jorge Díaz announced that Belgium would host a series of challenge matches in Antwerp, taking on Europe's best football teams. After some organisational difficulties a first tournament, the Challenge F. Vanden Abeele, was played between a Belgian A-selection and a Dutch B-team on 28 April 1901. This class difference was translated into a flagrant 8–0 win for the former, and team Belgium also won three follow-up games (1–0, 2–1, 6–4). However, these results were not recognised by FIFA since the Belgian team contained some English players. On 1 May 1904 the Belgians played their first official game, against France at the Stade Vivier d'Oie in Uccle. The teams tied 3–3, leaving neither side in possession of the Évence Coppée Trophy. At that time, the Belgian squad was chosen by a committee of representatives from the country's six or seven main clubs.
Beginning from 1905, for decades Belgium and the Netherlands contested cup trophies in the biannual "Low Countries derby". Coincidence or not, but already after a 1905 derby a Dutch reporter wrote that three Belgian players "work[ed] as devils", one year before Leopold FC manager Pierre Walckiers was the first to nickname the players Red Devils. Walckiers was inspired by their jersey colour and the achievement of three consecutive victories in 1906: a 0–5 win versus France and 5–0 and 2–3 wins against the Netherlands. In his match report about the last game in UBSSA magazine La Vie Sportive he noted that they behaved as petits diables rouges ("little red devils").
In 1910, former Scottish footballer William Maxwell was assigned as first manager of the Red Devils. Since 1912, the sports board UBSSA only organised football activities, and therefore it was renamed UBSFA.[F] During the First World War, the national team only played some unrecognised friendlies in and against France. Regrettably, three Belgian international players died in the war.
Debuts at major tournaments (1920–1978)
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 all their matches at the first three FIFA World Cup tournaments in the 1930s. A reason historian Richard Henshaw gave for Belgium's downward trend after the 1920 triumph was that "the growth of [football] in Scandinavia, Central Europe, and South America left Belgium far behind". International football tournaments were largely suspended in the 1940s following the outbreak of World War II, but in the wartime the traditional derby against the Netherlands was kept alive with multiple unofficial matches against them. Belgium qualified for only one out of eight major tournaments in the 1950s and 1960s: the 1954 World Cup. Two other merits in these decades were the wins against reigning world champions: 2–0 against West Germany in 1954 and 5–1 against Brazil in 1963. In between, Belgium also defeated Hungary's Golden Team in 1956 with a spectacular 5–4 result. Such performances in exhibition matches delivered the Belgian squad the mockery title "world champion of the friendlies", as Pelé testified.
The team's prospects improved in the early 1970s, under Raymond Goethals. As White Devils, Belgium obtained their first wins at World and European Championships, in 1970 and 1972 respectively. Euro 1972, in which they finished third, was their first Euro appearance. In 1973, the denial of a legal goal in their ultimate qualifier cost Belgium their 1974 FIFA World Cup ticket. The next two attempts to qualify for a major tournament were also in vain.
'Golden generation' (1978–2002)
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. Between 1982 and 2002, Belgium qualified for six back-to-back World Cup end stages and mostly also made it to the second round. After Guy Thys, also managers Paul Van Himst and Robert Waseige guided a national selection past the first round. Apart from individual FIFA recognitions, the team as a collective reached the semifinals in 1986. While the World Cups of 1990 and 1994 were reached directly by ending high in their continental qualifying groups, like in 1986 the national squad had to struggle through two-legged play-off rounds again to qualify for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups. After their Euro 1980 final, Belgium did not convince anymore at the continental level, with early exits in their two Euro appearances in 1984 and 2000. In the late 1990s they played three friendly tournaments in Morocco, Cyprus and Japan, and in the last they shared the 1999 Kirin Cup with Peru.
The greatest talents of that era all had retired from international football by 2000. In 2002 the remaining players gained a 1–2 victory over reigning world champion France, and made it to the round of 16 at their World Cup appearance. After the 2002 World Cup, the team further weakened as other valuable veterans stopped playing with the national side. Coach Waseige left as well, with Aimé Anthuenis superseding him.
Decline and new golden era (2002–present)
After the 2002 World Cup, 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 January 2006, 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 World Cup, the RBFA was prompted to sack coach Vandereycken in April 2009. His assistant Franky Vercauteren would take over ad interim.
In the meantime, a promising new generation appeared to arise as in 2007 Belgium's U-21 selection qualified for the upcoming Summer Olympics, and the Young Red Devils squad placed fourth at Beijing 2008. These players, 17 of whom would grow into the senior national team, disposed of mostly defensive skills and also a strong midfield. Nonetheless, their appearance in the senior team did not result in immediate success. At the 2009 Kirin Cup Belgium ended on the shared second and last place, and after a 2–1 loss against the then 125th FIFA-ranked team of Armenia in September 2009, caretaker Vercauteren resigned and made way for new coach Dick Advocaat. However, Advocaat only stayed six months as he quit to become coach of Russia. Georges Leekens was hired as his successor in May 2010, signing a contract until 2012. Under Leekens, the Red Devils narrowly missed the Euro 2012 play-offs. Leekens left for Club Brugge in May 2012; Marc Wilmots, assistant manager since 2009, was assigned as caretaker.
After two matches as provisional coach, Wilmots accepted the request to fully replace Leekens. Under his reign the team improved, rising to a then-high of fifth on the FIFA World Rankings in October 2013. By 2013, several foreign media regarded this Belgian national side during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers as a new golden generation. Belgium finally qualified as unbeaten group winners. 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.
In June 2014, Wilmots prolonged his managerial contract up to and including the 2018 World Cup. As of mid 2015, Belgium participates in the Euro 2016 qualifiers. The team attained another all-time FIFA rank record during this period, reaching second in June 2015.
- See also the historical kits overview.
The outfield players of the Belgium national football team traditionally play home games in the colours of the country's tricolour flag: black, yellow, and red. The uniform's predominant colour is red—the team jersey is often completely of this colour. This emphasis on red is one of the reasons for the team nickname, the Red Devils. Their away kits are usually designed in white, black, or both; their jersey is often trimmed with tricolores at the margins of the equipment. In 2014, the team inaugurated a third-option kit, coloured entirely in yellow. Since 1981, the crest of the Royal Belgian Football Association has served as the national team's badge; previously, the badge depicted a yellow lion on a black shield, an emblem similar to the escutcheon in the national coat of arms.
For their first unofficial match in 1901, the Belgian team wore white shirts with tricoloured bands at both upper arms. Around Belgium's third unofficial match in 1902, it was decided to dress the players in a "shirt with national colours (...) [that would indicate,] with a stripe, the number of times every player has participated in an encounter". Since 1904, Belgium's classic kit colour design has been altered twice. For a brief period in 1904–1905, the squad used satin jerseys with three horizontal bands in red, yellow, and black; sports journalist Victor Boin would later, in retrospect, label it with "the ugliness record". During the 1970s, manager Goethals opted for the Belgian national team to use an all-white combination to improve the team's visibility during the evening matches. As a result, the team was temporarily nicknamed the White Devils.
Six different clothing brands have supplied the official team strips. Since 2014, the kit manufacturer is Adidas; previously the Belgian squad already wore Adidas sportswear in the periods 1974–1980 and 1982–1991. Former kit sponsors have been Umbro (1970–1973), Admiral (1981–1982), Diadora (1992–1999), Nike (1999–2010) and BURRDA (2010–2014).
Throughout their history, Belgium have played at 23 national venues in 11 urban areas. Most of the national team's home games have been disputed in Brussels at the site of the present-day King Baudouin Stadium, a multifunctional venue with a capacity of 50,122 seats. This stadium also hosts their final training sessions prior to a home match; since 2007, most of the physical team preparation takes place at the National Football Centre in Tubize. Apart from local events, Belgium's national stadium has also hosted eight European Cup and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup finals, as well as six European Championship matches.
This sports venue was inaugurated as Jubilee Stadium in 1930 with an unofficial match between the national teams of Belgium and the Netherlands. At that time, the stadium had a capacity of over 70,000 spectators. The venue was renamed Heysel Stadium in 1946, but this new title later became infamous due to the tragic events preceding the 1985 European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool—39 spectators died after Liverpool fans charged a neutral area in the disrepaired building. Three years after this catastrophe plans were made for a drastic architectural transformation; in 1995, after two years of renovations, the modernised stadium was named after the late King Baudouin I.
In May 2013, it was announced that the King Baudouin Stadium would be demolished and a new stadium (Eurostadium) would arise at the nearby Heysel Plateau. In 2015, a building deadline was set for 2019. In September 2014, UEFA assigned Brussels as one of the 13 host cities for the 2020 European Championship (with the upcoming Eurostadium as venue for four games).
Belgium maintains football rivalries with the Netherlands and France, neighbouring countries with which they share close cultural and political relations. The rivalry between Belgium and the Netherlands is known as the Low Countries derby; both sides have played in 125 official matches as of 2014. The clash between Belgium and France is known in French as le Match Sympathique ("the Sympathetic Match"); both teams have played a total of 73 official matches as of 2015.
The first (unofficial) match between Belgium and the Netherlands was won by the Belgians 8–0. Belgium would emerge victorious in three more unofficial games, but would lose the first official match between both countries in 1905 (a 1–4 result in overtime). The two countries played biannually between 1905 and 1964 (except during the First and Second World Wars). Both national teams have met 18 times in major tournament campaigns, and have also played at least 35 friendly cup duels—under the name Challenge F. Vanden Abeele in Belgium and as the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad-beker in the Netherlands. The overall balance is in favour of the Netherlands, which has won 55 times while Belgium has 41 victories. Both squads also co-operated in fundraising initiatives between 1925 and 1932: four unofficial matches for charity, FIFA, and the Belgian Olympic Committee.
The first match between Belgium and France, the Évence Coppée Trophy played in 1904, was the first official match for both teams as well as the first official football match between two independent countries on the entire European continent. Both teams have played each other in numerous occasions—until the 1970s, both sides met almost annually. The Belgian national team is the side that France has played most often in international football games.[G] The overall balance is in favour of Belgium, which has won 30 times while France has 24 victories.
Since 1904, the RBFA, 23 permanent managers and two caretaker managers have been officially in charge of the national team, which included at least selecting the players. As of 12 June 2015, Marc Wilmots is statistically the best performing manager of all times with on average 2.17 points per match. Guy Thys brought Belgium most successes at major tournaments however—including record results at the World and European championships—and was accordingly proclaimed Manager of the Year by magazine World Soccer in 1986.
Rather than developing innovative team formations or playing styles, the Belgian managers exploited tactics that were common during the time they were in command. At the three World Cups in the 1930s, the Red Devils were aligned in a contemporary 2–3–5 "pyramid". In 1954, Doug Livingstone had his players appear in a 3–2–5 "WM" formation during the World Cup group matches. Throughout most of their tournament games in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s the team appeared in a 4–4–2 formation. Since the 1970s under Raymond Goethals a key strength of the Belgian team became its systematic use of the offside trap, a defensive tactic developed in the 1960s by Anderlecht coach Pierre Sinibaldi. "Master tactician" Goethals represented the "conservative, defensive football of the Belgian national team"; it was said that in the 1970s the contrast between the Belgian playing style and the Total Football from their Dutch rivals "could not be bigger". In an attempt to win a group match at the 1998 World Cup, Georges Leekens opted for a 4–3–3 formation in the second and third match of Belgium. Robert Waseige coached Belgium at Euro 2000 and the 2002 World Cup; he declared that "above all, [his] 4–4–2 system is holy", in the sense that he left good attackers on the bench to maintain his favourite formation. Marc Wilmots opted for the 4–3–3 line-up again, with the intention to show dominant football against any country.
A crew of over 20 people professionally surrounds the player group, including the following members:
|Assistant coach||Vital Borkelmans|
|Goalkeeping coach||Erwin Lemmens|
|Fitness coach||Mario Innaurato|
|Video analyst||Herman De Landtsheer|
|Team manager||Piet Erauw|
|Team doctors||Kris Van Crombrugge
The following players were convocated for the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Cyprus on 3 and 6 September 2015, respectively.
Caps, goals, player numbers and captain hierarchy are correct as of 12 June 2015 after the game against Wales. Only FIFA-recognised matches are included.[H]
The following players have been selected for Belgium in the past 12 months, but are not part of the current squad.
- At FIFA World Cups: 1930 · 1934 · 1938 · 1954 · 1970 · 1982 · 1986 · 1990 · 1994 · 1998 · 2002 · 2014
- At UEFA European Football Championships: 1972 · 1980 · 1984 · 2000
- At Summer Olympic tournaments: 1920 · 1924 · 1928
As of August 2015, the Belgian Football Association lists 677 different players that made an appearance for the men's senior national team.[I] The Red Devil with most caps is Jan Ceulemans, who featured in the national team 96 times (8256 minutes played). Apart from having gathered most caps, Ceulemans also started most often as team captain (48 times). The player with the longest career span is Hector Goetinck (17 years, 6 months and 10 days). Bernard Voorhoof and Paul Van Himst are the all-time Belgian topscorers, 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). The youngest player to feature in the senior team was Fernand Nisot, at the age of 16 years and 19 days; the oldest player in any game was Jean De Bie, at 38 years and 19 days of age.
Between 1904 and 1980, mainly attacking players were recognised as talented Red Devils. Before World War I, forwards Robert De Veen and Alphonse Six were notorious. De Veen was a very productive striker with 26 goals in 23 international appearances, while historian Richard Henshaw described Six as being "Belgium's greatest player in the prewar period (...) [, who] was often called the most skillful forward outside Great Britain". The key player of the victorious 1920 Olympic squad was Robert Coppée, who scored a hat-trick past Spain's Ricardo Zamora. In the interwar period, topscorer Bernard Voorhoof and "Belgium's football grandmaster" Raymond Braine, both strikers, were among the most outstanding Belgian players. Gifted players in the 1940s and 1950s included attackers Jef Mermans, Pol Anoul and Rik Coppens, as well as centre back Louis Carré. The 1960s and early 1970s were the glory days of forward and four-time Belgian Golden Shoe Paul Van Himst, later elected as the Belgian UEFA Golden Player (of 1954–2003) and Belgium's Player of the Century by IFFHS. In 2003, when both Coppens and Van Himst had retired from international football for decades, a journalist in a Flemish TV-show asked them: "Who [from both of you] was the best, actually?". Coppens jokingly replied: "I will ask Paul that... If Paul says it was me, then he's right.". At the end of Van Himst's career, defending midfielder and triple Golden Shoe Wilfried Van Moer joined the national team; he would still appear at the start of Belgium's first golden generation.
Belgium has witnessed two talented waves since 1980, with several players in defensive positions gaining international fame as well. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Belgium's world-class players included goalkeepers Jean-Marie Pfaff and Michel Preud'homme, and midfielder Jan Ceulemans, who played alongside talents such as right-back Eric Gerets, midfielders Enzo Scifo and Franky Van der Elst, and strikers Luc Nilis and Erwin Vandenbergh. All of these Devils retired from international football by 2000. During the 12-year 'drought' that followed without any major tournament, another golden generation matured. Most of them would feature in foreign top football leagues, in particular the English Premier League; as of July 2013, twelve Belgian national team players would play the next season in England's top division. The attacking compartment of this generation comprises forwards such as Kevin Mirallas, Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke, as well as wingers Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Kevin De Bruyne, while the midfield includes Mousa Dembélé, Marouane Fellaini and Axel Witsel. The defence consists of outfield players such as Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld as well as goalkeepers Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet.
Records and fixtures
As of August 2015, the complete official match record of the Belgian national team counts 728 games: 295 wins, 158 draws and 275 losses.[H] During these matches they scored 1228 times and conceded 1208 goals. Belgium reached its highest winning margin against San Marino (10–1) and Zambia (9–0). Their longest chain of victories is seven wins (in two periods) and their unbeaten record is 14 official games in a row.[H]
The entire match record can be examined on the following articles:
- Results in chronological order lists all individual matches.
- Record per opponent shows the head-to-head record against other footballing nations.
- Statistics per manager compiles an overview per managerial period.
|1||Wales||6||4||2||0||8||2||+6||14||Advance to final tournament||—||1–0||6 Sep||2–1||0–0||13 Oct|
|2||Belgium||6||3||2||1||13||2||+11||11||0–0||—||13 Oct||5–0||3 Sep||6–0|
|3||Israel||6||3||0||3||10||9||+1||9||Final tournament or play-offs||0–3||0–1||—||10 Oct||3–0||3 Sep|
|4||Cyprus||6||3||0||3||12||11||+1||9||3 Sep||6 Sep||1–2||—||13 Oct||5–0|
|5||Bosnia and Herzegovina||6||2||2||2||8||7||+1||8||10 Oct||1–1||3–1||1–2||—||6 Sep|
|6||Andorra (Y)||6||0||0||6||3||23||−20||0||1–2||10 Oct||1–4||1–3||0–3||—|
Rules for classification: Qualification tiebreakers
(Y) Cannot qualify directly as one of the top two teams, but may still qualify as third-placed team.
FIFA World Cup
Belgium were not yet successful during their first five World Cup participations 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 a.e.t.), and in 1970 they achieved their first win at a World Cup, against El Salvador (3–0).
From 1982 through 2002, Belgium reached six successive World Cups by playing qualification rounds, and advanced to the second phase five times. In the 1982 FIFA World Cup opening game, 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 underdogs Belgium surprisingly won against the Soviets after extra time (3–4). They also beat Spain in a penalty shoot-out after a 1–1 draw, but conceded a 2–0 loss against eventual champions Argentina in the semifinal. 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, but eventually lost in the final minute of extra time after a "nearly blind" volley by David Platt. 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, Brazil won by 2–0.
In 2014, Belgium beat all group opponents with the smallest margin. Thereafter, they played a highly entertaining round of 16 match against the United States in which American goalkeeper Tim Howard made 15 saves[J] but the dominant Red Devils defeated Team USA in extra time (2–1). In a balanced quarter-final, Argentina eliminated Belgium by 1–0.
Champions Runners-up Third place Fourth place
|Belgium's FIFA World Cup record||Qualification record|
|1930||Round 1||11th of 13||2||0||0||2||0||4||Squad||Qualified as invitees|
|1934||15th of 16||1||0||0||1||2||5||Squad||2||0||1||1||6||8|
|1938||13th of 15||1||0||0||1||1||3||Squad||2||1||1||0||4||3|
|1954||Group stage||12th of 16||2||0||1||1||5||8||Squad||4||3||1||0||11||6|
|1958||Did not qualify||4||2||1||1||16||11|
|1970||Group stage||10th of 16||3||1||0||2||4||5||Squad||6||4||1||1||14||8|
|1974||Did not qualify||6||4||2||0||12||0|
|1982||Group stage 2||10th of 24||5||2||1||2||3||5||Squad||8||5||1||2||12||9|
|1986||Fourth place||4th of 24||7||2||2*||3||12||15||Squad||8||4||2||2||9||5|
|1990||Round of 16||11th of 24||4||2||0||2||6||4||Squad||8||4||4||0||15||5|
|1994||11th of 24||4||2||0||2||4||4||Squad||10||7||1||2||16||5|
|1998||Group stage||19th of 32||3||0||3||0||3||3||Squad||10||7||1||2||23||13|
|2002||Round of 16||14th of 32||4||1||2||1||6||7||Squad||10||7||2||1||27||6|
|2006||Did not qualify||10||3||3||4||16||11|
|2014||Quarter-finals||6th of 32||5||4||0||1||6||3||Squad||10||8||2||0||18||4|
|2018||To be determined|
|Total||Best: Fourth place||12/20||41||14||9||18||52||66||&
UEFA European Championship
Belgium's performance in the European Championship does not match their World Cup record. Belgium hosted or co-hosted the event twice, finishing third in 1972 after a 1–2 loss to West Germany and a 2–1 win over Hungary (when they were chosen among 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 European title.
At Euro 1984 in their last group match against Denmark the road to the knockout stage seemed open after taking a 0–2 lead, but the Red Devils could not prevent Danish Dynamite to turn the tide in their favour (3–2). 16 years later, Belgium reappeared at the highest continental level as Euro 2000 co-hosts. After winning their opening game against Sweden with 2–1, two 2–0 losses against eventual tournament's runners-up Italy and Turkey cost the Belgians the quarter-finals.
Champions Runners-up Third place Fourth place
|Belgium's UEFA European Championship record||Qualification record|
|1960||Did not enter||&
|1964||Did not qualify||2||0||0||2||2||4|
|1972||Third place||3rd of 4||2||1||0||1||3||3||Squad||8||5||2||1||13||4|
|1976||Did not qualify||8||3||2||3||7||10|
|1980||Runners-up||2nd of 8||4||1||2||1||4||4||Squad||8||4||4||0||12||5|
|1984||Group stage||6th of 8||3||1||0||2||4||8||Squad||6||4||1||1||12||8|
|1988||Did not qualify||8||3||3||2||16||8|
|2000||Group stage||12th of 16||3||1||0||2||2||5||Squad||Qualified as hosts[K]|
|2004||Did not qualify||8||5||1||2||11||9|
|2016||To be determined||5||3||2||0||13||1|
Summer Olympic Games
In six Summer Olympics editions between 1908 and 1936, football tournaments for proper senior men's national football teams took place; the Belgian team participated in all three Olympic football tournaments in the 1920s and won the gold medal on home soil in 1920. Belgium's 1920 Olympic squad 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 visitors left the pitch in the 40th minute. Afterwards, the away team reported their reasons for protest to the Olympic organisation. These protests were dismissed and the Czechoslovaks got disqualified; the 2–0 score was allowed to stand and Belgium were crowned the Olympic champions.
Apart from the proper national team, two other Belgian delegations appeared at the Summer Olympics. In 1900 a Belgian representation with mainly students won bronze, and in 2008 Belgium's U-23 selection placed fourth.
Gold Silver Bronze
|Belgium's Summer Olympic Games record|
|Athens 1896||No association football competition took place.|
|Paris 1900||Played between clubs|
|St. Louis 1904|
|London 1908||Did not enter|
|Paris 1924||Round 2||1||0||0||1||1||8||Squad|
|Los Angeles 1932||No association football competition took place|
|Berlin 1936||Did not enter|
| London 1948
|From the 1948 till 1988 Olympic Games, amateur selections played;
since 1992 Football at the Olympics became an under-23 tournament.
|Total||3/6, 1 title||7||4||0||3||18||21||&
Belgium vs. Netherlands Cups
In the earliest decades of their existence, the duels between the Belgian and Dutch national teams were cup matches.
|Belgium-Netherlands Cup record|
|1905–25 Challenge F. Vanden Abeele||3 times*||14||3||3||8||25||34|
|1905–32 Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad-beker||5 times||21||5||5||11||35||55|
Apart from their maiden match against France and the cup matches against Netherlands, Belgium also featured at minor tournaments with multiple contestants—usually to exercise for a major tournament.
Winners Runners-up Third place
|Other minor tournaments record|
|1904 Évence Coppée Trophy||Single game||1st (shared) of 2||1||0||1||0||3||3|
|1998 King Hassan II Tournament||Group stage||4th of 4||2||0||1*||1||0||1|
|1999 Cyprus Tournament||Group stage||2nd of 4||2||1||0||1||1||1|
|1999 Kirin Cup||Group stage||1st (shared) of 3||2||0||2||0||1||1|
|2009 Kirin Cup||Group stage||2nd (shared) of 3||2||0||1||1||1||5|
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.
Decades later, television became the more popular medium to follow the matches. As 59 per cent of the Belgians speak Dutch and 41 per cent speak French, the games of the national team are broadcast in both languages. During Belgium's tournament appearances in the 1980s and early 1990s, Rik De Saedeleer crowned himself the nation's most famous football commentator with his emotional and humorous match reports. 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. The Belgian broadcasting right holders for the Euro 2016 qualifiers are VRT, RTBF and cable broadband providers BeTV and Telenet. The 8th final against the United States at the 2014 World Cup was the most-watched television program in Belgian history so far, with a total audience of over four million viewers out of 11.2 million Belgian citizens.
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"), while Telenet brought out an eight-piece documentary about individual players, Rode Helden ("Red Heroes").
- Actions for the fans: During the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, a string of interactive actions was organised: the so-called Devil Challenges. 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. In June 2013 the Red Devils' first ever Fan Day attracted over 20,000 supporters; a second edition was held after the 2014 World Cup. 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) took place in three Belgian cities.
- Charity support: An unofficial match against the Netherlands in 1926 served exclusively as fundraiser for benefactions. In the summer of 1986, when the Belgian delegation reached the Mexico World Cup semifinals, 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 footballers donated part of their tournament bonuses. In August 2013, the national team supported four social projects via the charity fund Football+ Foundation, by playing an A-match with a plus sign on the shoulders of their jerseys and afterwards auctioning the shirts.
- Anti-racism campaigns: In 2002, the national squad posed with anti-racist slogans. In 2010 a home Euro 2012 qualifier stood in the theme of respect for diversity; this UEFA-supported action made part of the European FARE Action Week. Ex-Red Devil Dimitri Mbuyu (first black Belgium player, in 1987) was engaged as godfather, and also other (ex-)players of foreign origin in the Belgian competition participated.
|“||Cycling is the traditional national sport of Belgium, but soccer is the most popular.
—Richard Henshaw, 1979
Just like the national team the Belgian supporters manifest themselves with the Belgian tricolour, usually with emphasis on red. Only by 2012 the fans joined their forces by merging the local fan clubs into one large Belgian supporters' federation named 1895, after the year of foundation of the RBFA. One year later, 1895 counted over 24,000 members. The most beautiful moment for the Red Devils and their supporters was probably in the summer of 1986, when the Belgian delegation at the Mexico World Cup was given a warm 'welcome home'. The Grand Place of Brussels was captured by an ecstatic crowd that cheered to their World Cup semifinalists appearing on the Town Hall balcony, as if they had won a major tournament.
After the six consecutive World Cup qualifications between 1982 and 2002, the national team abruptly failed to reach the end stages of the five subsequent European and World Championships. Despite the efforts, between 2004 and 2010 multiple journalists described the Belgian footballing nation as being "deadly sick". In spite of this severe popularity strain, some fans still kept supporting their team in the bad days, the most loyal one probably being Ludo Rollenberg. This man attended the games of the Red Devils worldwide since 1990, only having missed the Kirin Cup in 1999 and two other matches by 2006, and even showing up as only supporter in Armenia in 2009.
In 2008, hope surged when Belgium's U-23 acquired fourth place at the Olympics in Beijing; several of these players would later appear in the senior national team. Even though the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 were not reached, the popularity and belief in an upcoming major tournament continued to rise again.
During the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, 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 a home qualifier, the players would for the first time see a tifo banner, measuring 10.5 by 11.5 metres and depicting a devil composed of the national colours. The many players appearing in foreign high-level football leagues and promising results under Marc Wilmots only increased the enthusiasm and belief in a successful World Cup campaign. 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, while facets of the Atomium's upper sphere were covered in black, yellow and red.
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. In 2012, the Red Devils adopted a red trident as new logo.
Belgium's results in the top four at major events are as follows:
For minor titles and other accolades: see the records page, section "Awards".
- Belgian Congo national football team (1948–1960)
- Belgium national football B team
- Belgium national youth football team (U-15 – U-21 squads)
- Belgian Pro League
- Sport in Belgium
- 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.
The title of "Royal Union" was given for its 25th year of existence, in 1920.
- 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.
- Dutch: Belgisch nationaal voetbalelftal
French: Équipe nationale belge de football
German: Belgische Fußballnationalmannschaft
- Dutch: De Rode Duivels
French: Les Diables Rouges
German: Die Roten Teufel
- UBSSA was the acronym for the organisation's French name: Union Belge des Sociétés de Sports Athlétiques.
- UBSFA was the acronym for the organisation's French name: Union Belge des Sociétés de Football-Association.
In 1920 it received the title of "Royal Union" for its 25th year of existence, and hence became the Royal Belgian Football Association.
- as of 2015
- 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.
- Note that the RBFA does not count caps earned in the Belgian seven Summer Olympics matches, and that it does include Belgium's friendlies on 14 November 2012 and 26 May 2014 that are not FIFA-recognised due to an excessive number of substitutions.
- FIFA's initial match statistics showed 16 saves, and many news sources continue to use this number. The official FIFA statistics were updated on 5 July 2014 to show 15 saves.
- UEFA preferred the joint bid from Belgium and the Netherlands to the individual bids of Spain and Austria.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Belgium national football team.|
- RBFA official website (Dutch) (English) (French)
- FIFA team profile
- ELO team records
- Belgian national team news website (French)
- Official supporters' federation 1895 (Dutch) (French)