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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[2]
Captain Vincent Kompany[3]
Most caps Jan Ceulemans (96)[4]
Top scorer Bernard Voorhoof and
Paul Van Himst (30)[4]
Home stadium King Baudouin Stadium
First colours
Second colours
FIFA ranking
Current 1 Increase 2 (5 November 2015)
Highest 1 (November 2015)
Lowest 71 (June 2007)
Elo ranking
Current 11 (13 October 2015)[5]
Highest 2 (September 1920[6])
Lowest 74 (September 2009[6])
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 5 (First in 1972)
Best result Runners-up, 1980

The Belgian national football team[C] has officially represented Belgium in association football since 1904. The squad is under the global jurisdiction of FIFA and is governed in Europe by UEFA—both of which were co-founded by the Belgian team's supervising body, the Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA). Periods of regular Belgian representation at the highest international level, from 1920 to 1938 and 1970 to 2002, have alternated with major difficulties in qualifying. Most of Belgium's home matches are played at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.

Belgium's national team have participated in three quadrennial major football competitions. They appeared in the end stages of twelve FIFA World Cups and four UEFA European Football Championships, and won the 1920 Olympic football gold medal. Other notable performances are victories over four reigning world championsWest Germany, Brazil, Argentina and France—between 1954 and 2002. Belgium has longstanding football rivalries with their Dutch and French counterparts, having played both teams nearly every year from 1905 to 1967. The squad has been known as the Red Devils since 1906,[D] and its supporters' group is named 1895.

Football gained popularity in Belgium in the late 19th century. In 1900, the idea came up to create a team with Belgium's best football players. After winning four games at the three Olympic football tournaments in the 1920s, the team failed to win matches at any major tournament finals in the next four decades. Around 1970, striker Paul Van Himst—the most-praised Belgian footballer of the 20th century—played for the national team; their fortunes revived and they took third place at Euro 1972.

The Belgian national squad experienced two golden ages with many gifted players. The first period lasted from the 1980s to the early 1990s, with the team finishing as runners-up at Euro 1980 and fourth in the 1986 World Cup. The second golden generation emerged under guidance of Marc Wilmots in the early 2010s. This group reached the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals and qualified for Euro 2016. They topped the FIFA World Rankings for the first time in November 2015.


Belgium was the first mainland European country to play association football.[8] Its practice in Belgium began after an Irish student walked into the Josephites College of Melle with a leather ball on 26 October 1863.[9] Initially, association football was an elitist pastime,[10] but during the following decades it supplanted rugby as Belgium's most popular football sport.[11] On 1 September 1895, ten clubs for football, athletics, cricket and cycling founded the Belgian sports union UBSSA;[E][1][11] a year later UBSSA organised the first annual league in Belgian football.[11]

Football team in uniform
The first Belgium A-squad in 1901 featured four Englishmen.

On 11 October 1900, Beerschot AC honorary president Jorge Díaz announced that Antwerp would host a series of challenge matches between Europe's best football teams.[13] After some organisational problems, on 28 April 1901, Beerschot's pitch hosted its first tournament: the Challenge F. Vanden Abeele, between a Belgian A-squad and a Dutch B-team.[14] Belgium won 8–0,[15] and also beat Netherlands in all three follow-up games (1–0, 2–1, 6–4).[16] FIFA does not recognise these results because the Belgian team included some English players.[17] On 1 May 1904, the Belgians played their first official game, against France at the Stade Vivier d'Oie in Uccle; the teams drew 3–3, leaving the Évence Coppée Trophy unclaimed.[18] Twenty days later, the football boards of both countries and five other nations founded FIFA.[19] At that time, the Belgian squad was chosen by a committee drawn from the country's six-or-seven major clubs.[20]

In 1905, Belgium and the Netherlands began competing for cup trophies in the biannual Low Countries derby.[21] After a 1905 match, a Dutch reporter wrote that three Belgian footballers "work[ed] as devils".[22] A year later Léopold FC manager Pierre Walckiers nicknamed the players "Red Devils", inspired by the colour of their jerseys and the achievement of three consecutive victories in 1906.[23][24] In 1910, Scottish former footballer William Maxwell became the first manager of the Red Devils.[25] Two years later, UBSSA began governing football only and was renamed UBSFA.[F][1][11] During the First World War, the national team played only unrecognised friendlies in (and against) France.[26][27] Three Belgian international players died in the war.[28]

A successful penalty kick, seen from the back of the net
In the 1920 Olympic football final at Olympisch Stadion in Antwerp, Robert Coppée scored for Belgium with a penalty kick.

In 1920, in their first official Olympic appearance, the Red Devils won the gold medal on home soil after a controversial final in which their Czechoslovak opponents left the pitch.[29] After fair results in the three 1920s Summer Olympics (four wins in seven games),[30][31][32] Belgium lost all of their matches at the first three FIFA World Cup final tournaments over the following decade.[33][34][35] According to historian Richard Henshaw "the growth of [football] in Scandinavia, Central Europe, and South America left Belgium far behind".[36] Although international football events were largely suspended in the 1940s because of World War II, the traditional derby against the Netherlands was kept alive with unofficial matches.[37][38] Belgium qualified for only one of eight major tournaments during the 1950s and 1960s: the 1954 World Cup.[39] The day before the tournament began, the Belgian, French and Italian football boards founded UEFA.[40] Two bright spots in these decades were wins against World Cup holders: 2–0 over West Germany in 1954 and 5–1 over Brazil in 1963.[24] The combination of failure in competitive games and success in exhibition matches gave the Belgians the mock title of "world champion of the friendlies",[41] as Pelé confirmed.[42] The team's performance improved during the early 1970s, under manager Raymond Goethals. As the White Devils, Belgium had their first victories at World and European Championships in 1970 and 1972.[43][44] At Euro 1972, their first Euro appearance, they finished third. In 1973, the denial of a match-winning goal in their last 1974 World Cup qualifier cost Belgium the finals.[45] The next two attempts to reach the finals of a major tournament were also unsuccessful.[46][47]

Belgium's most successful period began with a second-place finish at UEFA Euro 1980,[48] and the 1980s and early 1990s are generally considered to be their first golden age.[49] Between 1982 and 2002, the national team qualified for six consecutive World Cup final stages and mostly progressed to the second round. Managers Guy Thys, Paul Van Himst and Robert Waseige guided the Belgian team past the first round.[26] In addition to individual FIFA recognitions, the team reached the semi-finals of the 1986 World Cup.[50] Although Belgium qualified for the World Cup finals in 1990 and 1994 by placing well in their continental qualification groups,[51][52] they struggled through two-legged play-offs to qualify for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups as they did in 1986.[50][53][54] After reaching the Euro 1980 final, the squad were unsuccessful at the continental level, with early exits from their Euro appearances in 1984 and 2000.[55][56] During the late 1990s, they played three friendly tournaments in Morocco,[57] Cyprus[58] and Japan, sharing the 1999 Kirin Cup with Peru in the latter.[59] Although the greatest talents of the Belgian national team during this golden age were retired from international football by 2000,[60] in 2002 Belgium defeated reigning world champions France 1–2,[24] and made the World Cup round of 16.[54] After the 2002 World Cup, the team weakened with the loss of more veterans.[61] Robert Waseige also left,[62] and was succeeded as coach by Aimé Anthuenis.[63]

Belgian defender maneuvering around the Algerian goal
Belgium (in red) playing Algeria at Estádio Mineirão in the 2014 World Cup

After that World Cup, Belgium failed to qualify for the final stages of five consecutive major tournaments and went through an equal number of head coaches.[26] Anthuenis' contract ended after the team failed to qualify for Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup, and the RBFA fired his successor René Vandereycken after failing to qualify for Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.[64] Assistant coach Franky Vercauteren took over in the interim, awaiting the arrival of new permanent coach Dick Advocaat.[65] At the 2007 European U-21 Championship, a promising new generation was maturing; Belgium's squad qualified for the following year's Summer Olympics in Beijing,[66] where the Young Red Devils squad finished fourth.[67] These players used mostly defensive skills next to a strong midfield. Seventeen of them appeared in the senior national team,[60] albeit without bringing the seniors immediate success. At the 2009 Kirin Cup, Belgium finished in second (and last) place,[68] and they lost 2–1 against the 125th FIFA-ranked team of Armenia in September 2009;[69] hereafter, caretaker Vercauteren resigned to make way for Advocaat.[70][71] The veteran Dutch coach remained only six months before he left to coach Russia.[72] Georges Leekens succeeded him in May 2010,[73] but unexpectedly left for Club Brugge in May 2012.[74] Under him, the Red Devils narrowly missed the Euro 2012 play-offs. Marc Wilmots, assistant manager since 2009, became the caretaker.[75]

After two matches as interim coach, Wilmots agreed to fully replace Leekens.[2] Under him the team's performance improved; during their 2014 World Cup qualifiers they rose to a then-high of fifth in the FIFA World Rankings in October 2013.[76] By 2013, some foreign media saw the Belgian squad as another golden generation.[77][78][79][80] Belgium finally qualified for the 2014 World Cup as unbeaten group winners.[81] At the World Cup finals, with a four-game winning streak the young squad earned a place in the quarter-finals, for the second time in Belgium's history.[82] Wilmots extended his managerial contract through the 2018 World Cup in June 2014.[83] Belgium qualified for Euro 2016 with a match to spare in October 2015,[84] and took the top spot in the FIFA rankings for the first time in November 2015.[85] In the 2018 World Cup qualifying allocation, they were seeded first in their group.[86][87]


Team photo on the pitch
Team emblem: a gold lion on a black shield background
Traditional red jersey worn by the Euro 1980 runners-up, and the stylised lion emblem (1948–80)

In home matches, the team's outfield players traditionally play in the colours of the Belgian flag: black, yellow and red.[88][89] Red dominates the strip and is often the sole jersey colour,[89] hence the team's nickname of "Red Devils".[23] Their shirts are often trimmed with tricolores at the margins.[90] The away colours are usually white, black or both;[91] in 2014, the team introduced a third, yellow kit.[92] Since 1981, the RBFA emblem has been the national team's badge;[89][90] the previous badge was a yellow lion on a black shield,[91] similar to the escutcheon of the national coat of arms.[93]

For their first unofficial match in 1901, the Belgian team wore white jerseys with tricoloured bands on the upper arms.[21] Around Belgium's third unofficial game in 1902, it was decided that the players would wear a "shirt with national colours ... [that would indicate,] with a stripe, the number of times every player has participated in an encounter".[15] Since 1904, Belgium's classic all-red jersey design has been altered twice. In 1904–05, the squad briefly wore satin shirts with three horizontal bands in red, yellow and black; according to sports journalist Victor Boin, the shirts set "the ugliness record".[20] During the 1970s, manager Raymond Goethals chose an all-white combination to improve the team's visibility during evening matches;[90][94] as a result, they were temporarily known as the "White Devils".[94]

Six clothing manufacturers have supplied the official team strip. Since 2014, the kits have been produced by Adidas,[95] who also supplied sportswear to the squad from 1974 to 1980, and from 1982 to 1991.[96] Former kit manufacturers are Umbro (1970–1973),[90] Admiral (1981–1982),[96] Diadora (1992–1999),[96] Nike (1999–2010)[97] and BURRDA (2010–2014).[96]

Home stadium[edit]

Aerial photo of packed stadium
Stadium interior, photographed from the grandstand
The national stadium at the Heysel Plateau in 1935 (left) and in 2013

A total of 23 national venues in 11 urban areas have hosted Belgium's home games.[26] Most of these matches have been played in Brussels at the Heysel Plateau, on the site of the present-day King Baudouin Stadium—a multipurpose venue with a seating capacity of 50,122.[98] Its field also hosts the team's final training sessions before domestic games. Since 2007, most physical preparation takes place at the National Football Centre in Tubize[99] or at Anderlecht's training ground in the Neerpede quarter.[100][101] Belgium's national stadium has hosted eight European Cup and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup finals,[102][103] and six European Championship games.[104][105]

In 1930, for the country's centennial, the venue was christened Jubilee Stadium with an unofficial match between Belgium and the Netherlands.[106] At that time, the stadium had a capacity of 75,000.[107] In 1946, it was renamed Heysel Stadium after its city quarter. This new name became associated with the tragedy preceding the 1985 European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool; after Liverpool fans charged a neutral area of the antiquated building, 39 spectators died.[108] Three years after the disaster, plans were unveiled for a renovation;[109] in 1995, after two years of work, the modernised stadium was named for the late King Baudouin.[110]

In May 2013, it was announced that King Baudouin Stadium would be replaced by Eurostadium, elsewhere on the Heysel Plateau;[111] two years later, a 2019 date was set for the stadium's completion.[112] In September 2014, UEFA named Brussels as one of the 13 host cities for the 2020 European Championship, with its new stadium hosting four games.[113]


Match phase with two outfield players from each side
Illustration of a Netherlands-Belgium cup match at Rotterdam's Schuttersveld pitch in 1905

Belgium's main football rivals are its neighbours the Netherlands and France, with which it shares close cultural and political relations.[114][115] The matchup between the Belgian and Dutch teams is known as the Low Countries derby;[106] as of 2014 they have played each other in 125 official matches.[116] The clash between the Belgian and French sides is nicknamed le Match Sympathique in French ("the Sympathetic Match");[117] they have contested 73 official matches as of 2015.[116]

Belgium won the first unofficial match with the Netherlands 8–0.[15] Belgium also won three more unofficial games,[118] but lost the first FIFA-recognised game between the two countries in 1905 by a 1–4 scoreline after overtime.[24] The two national teams played each other biannually between 1905 and 1964, except during the two World Wars.[24] They have met 18 times in major tournament campaigns and have played at least 35 friendly cup duels; the ones in Belgium were titled "Challenge F. Vanden Abeele", those in the Netherlands were called "Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad-beker".[26] The overall balance favours the Netherlands, with 55 wins against 41 Belgian victories.[116] The Low Countries squads co-operated in fundraising initiatives between 1925 and 1932; they played four unofficial matches for charity, FIFA and the Belgian Olympic Committee.[106][119]

The first match between Belgium and France, the Évence Coppée Trophy played in 1904, was the first official game for both teams and the first official football match between independent countries on the European continent.[120] The squads have played each other on numerous occasions—until 1967, the sides met almost annually.[24] As of 2015, France has played most often against Belgium in international football games.[116] With 30 wins in direct confrontations, Belgium performed better than the French, who won 24 times.[116]


For more details on this topic, see List of Belgium national football team managers.
Portrait of a bearded man and subscript with the title of Baron
Édouard de Laveleye, de facto the first national manager (1904–09)

Since 1904, the RBFA, 23 permanent managers and two caretaker managers have officially been in charge of the national team; this implies at least selecting the footballers.[25][26] As of 13 November 2015, Marc Wilmots is statistically the best performing Belgium manager, with an average 2.28 points per match.[G] Under Guy Thys the team achieved record results at World and European championships; World Soccer magazine accordingly proclaimed him Manager of the Year in 1986.[121]

Rather than developing innovative team formations or styles of play, Belgium's managers applied tactics that were common during their tenures. At the three 1930s World Cups, the Red Devils were aligned in a contemporary 2–3–5 "pyramid".[33][34][35] In 1954, Doug Livingstone let his players appear in a 3–2–5 "WM" arrangement during the World Cup matches.[39] Throughout most of their tournament games in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s the team was positioned in a 4–4–2 formation.[43][52][122] Since Raymond Goethals' leadership in the 1970s a key strength of the Belgian team was their systematic use of the offside trap,[123] a defensive tactic developed in the 1960s by Anderlecht coach Pierre Sinibaldi.[124] "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".[125]

In an attempt to win a game at the 1998 World Cup, Georges Leekens chose a 4–3–3 arrangement for Belgium's second and third group matches.[53] Robert Waseige, who coached Belgium around 2000, said that "above all, [his] 4–4–2 system [was] holy", in the sense that he left good attackers on the bench to keep his favourite formation.[126] Wilmots opted for the 4–3–3 line-up again,[127] with the intention of showing dominant football against any country.[128]

Current staff[edit]

Coach on the pitch in training jacket
Belgium head coach Marc Wilmots

A crew of over 20 RBFA employees guides the player group; it includes the following members:[129]

Sports technical
Position Name
Manager Marc Wilmots
Assistant coach Vital Borkelmans
Goalkeeping coach Erwin Lemmens
Fitness coach Mario Innaurato
Video analyst Herman De Landtsheer
Team manager Piet Erauw
Position Name
Team doctors Kris Van Crombrugge
Geert Declerq
Physiotherapists Bernard Vandevelde
Geert Neyrinck
Dimitri Lowette
Podiatrist Jo Dewijze
Nutritionist Nicolas Paraskevopulos


Current squad[edit]

The following players were convocated for the friendly games against Italy and Spain on 13 and 17 November 2015, respectively.[130][131][132] The match against Spain was cancelled the night before it was planned, however, due to terror threat.[133]
Caps, goals and player numbers are correct as of 13 November 2015 after the game against Italy.[134] Only FIFA-recognised matches are included.[H]

0#0 Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club
1 1GK Simon Mignolet (1988-03-06) 6 March 1988 (age 27) 16 0 England Liverpool
12 1GK Matz Sels (1992-02-26) 26 February 1992 (age 23) 0 0 Belgium Gent
13 1GK Jean-François Gillet (1979-05-31) 31 May 1979 (age 36) 9 0 Belgium Mechelen
2 2DF Toby Alderweireld (1989-03-02) 2 March 1989 (age 26) 52 1 England Tottenham Hotspur
3 2DF Nicolas Lombaerts (1985-03-20) 20 March 1985 (age 30) 37 3 Russia Zenit Saint Petersburg
5 2DF Jan Vertonghen (3rd captain) (1987-04-24) 24 April 1987 (age 28) 74 6 England Tottenham Hotspur
8 2DF Thomas Meunier (1991-09-12) 12 September 1991 (age 24) 5 0 Belgium Club Brugge
15 2DF Jason Denayer (1995-06-28) 28 June 1995 (age 20) 4 0 Turkey Galatasaray
16 2DF Luis Pedro Cavanda (1991-01-02) 2 January 1991 (age 24) 2 0 Turkey Trabzonspor
23 2DF Thomas Vermaelen (1985-11-14) 14 November 1985 (age 30) 50 1 Spain Barcelona
4 3MF Steven Defour (1988-04-15) 15 April 1988 (age 27) 46 2 Belgium Anderlecht
6 3MF Axel Witsel (1989-01-12) 12 January 1989 (age 26) 63 6 Russia Zenit Saint Petersburg
7 3MF Kevin De Bruyne (1991-06-28) 28 June 1991 (age 24) 34 11 England Manchester City
10 3MF Eden Hazard (Vice-captain) (1991-01-07) 7 January 1991 (age 24) 62 12 England Chelsea
14 3MF Sven Kums (1988-02-26) 26 February 1988 (age 27) 0 0 Belgium Gent
17 3MF Yannick Ferreira Carrasco (1993-09-04) 4 September 1993 (age 22) 4 0 Spain Atlético Madrid
18 3MF Radja Nainggolan (1988-05-04) 4 May 1988 (age 27) 17 4 Italy Roma
19 3MF Mousa Dembélé (1987-07-16) 16 July 1987 (age 28) 62 5 England Tottenham Hotspur
9 4FW Romelu Lukaku (1993-05-13) 13 May 1993 (age 22) 40 8 England Everton
11 4FW Kevin Mirallas (1987-10-05) 5 October 1987 (age 28) 50 9 England Everton
20 4FW Christian Benteke (1990-12-03) 3 December 1990 (age 24) 24 6 England Liverpool
22 4FW Michy Batshuayi (1993-10-02) 2 October 1993 (age 22) 2 2 France Marseille

Recent call-ups[edit]

The following footballers were part of a national selection in the past 12 months,[136][137][138] but are not part of the current squad.

Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club Latest call-up
GK Thibaut Courtois INJ (1992-05-11) 11 May 1992 (age 23) 33 0 England Chelsea v.  Cyprus, 6 September 2015
DF Vincent Kompany INJ (Captain) (1986-04-10) 10 April 1986 (age 29) 70 4 England Manchester City v.  Italy, 13 November 2015[I][132]
DF Jordan Lukaku INJ (1994-07-25) 25 July 1994 (age 21) 1 0 Belgium Oostende v.  Italy, 13 November 2015[I][131]
DF Dedryck Boyata (1990-11-28) 28 November 1990 (age 24) 1 0 Scotland Celtic v.  Israel, 13 October 2015
DF Laurent Ciman (1985-08-05) 5 August 1985 (age 30) 9 0 Canada Montreal Impact v.  Cyprus, 6 September 2015
DF Anthony Vanden Borre (1987-10-24) 24 October 1987 (age 28) 28 1 Belgium Anderlecht v.  Wales, 12 June 2015
DF Olivier Deschacht (1981-02-16) 16 February 1981 (age 34) 20 0 Belgium Anderlecht v.  Wales, 12 June 2015
DF Laurens De Bock (1992-11-07) 7 November 1992 (age 23) 0 0 Belgium Club Brugge v.  Cyprus, 28 March 2015[I][139]
MF Dries Mertens INJ (1987-05-06) 6 May 1987 (age 28) 41 8 Italy Napoli v.  Italy, 13 November 2015[I][140]
MF Marouane Fellaini INJ (1987-11-22) 22 November 1987 (age 28) 64 15 England Manchester United v.  Italy, 13 November 2015[I][131]
MF Zakaria Bakkali (1996-01-26) 26 January 1996 (age 19) 2 0 Spain Valencia v.  Israel, 13 October 2015
MF Nacer Chadli INJ (1989-08-02) 2 August 1989 (age 26) 30 3 England Tottenham Hotspur v.  Israel, 13 October 2015
MF Leander Dendoncker (1995-04-25) 25 April 1995 (age 20) 1 0 Belgium Anderlecht v.  Wales, 12 June 2015
MF Youri Tielemans (1997-05-07) 7 May 1997 (age 18) 0 0 Belgium Anderlecht v.  Wales, 12 June 2015
FW Laurent Depoitre INJ (1988-12-07) 7 December 1988 (age 26) 1 1 Belgium Gent v.  Spain, 17 November 2015[I][141]
FW Divock Origi (1995-04-18) 18 April 1995 (age 20) 16 3 England Liverpool v.  Israel, 13 October 2015
FW Adnan Januzaj (1995-02-05) 5 February 1995 (age 20) 5 0 Germany Borussia Dortmund v.  Cyprus, 6 September 2015
INJ = Did not make it to the current squad due to injury
  1. ^ a b c d e f Had to leave this selection due to injury

Previous squads[edit]

Player records[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Belgium national football team records.
Player in training outfit running with the ball
Jan Ceulemans

As of 13 November 2015, Belgium's football association lists 680 players who appeared in the men's senior national team.[60][I] Jan Ceulemans, who featured 96 times in it (8,256 minutes played), has the greatest number of caps.[60] He also started most often as team captain (48 times).[26] Hector Goetinck had the longest career as international footballer: 17 years, 6 months and 10 days.[26]

Bernard Voorhoof and Paul Van Himst are the highest-scoring Belgium players, with a tally of 30 goals each.[60] The players who scored most goals in one match are Robert De Veen, Bert De Cleyn and Josip Weber (5);[26] De Veen also holds the hat-trick record (3).[26] The youngest player in the senior team was Fernand Nisot at the age of 16 years and 19 days.[26][60] The oldest was Jean De Bie, who was still goalkeeper for Belgium at 38 years and 19 days old.[26][60]

Notable players[edit]

Between 1904 and 1980, mainly attacking Belgium players were recognised as talented footballers. Before World War I, strikers Robert De Veen and Alphonse Six were famous; De Veen was very productive with 26 goals in 23 international appearances,[4] while historian Richard Henshaw described Six as "Belgium's greatest player in the prewar period ... [who] was often called the most skillful forward outside Great Britain".[36] The key player of the victorious 1920 Olympic squad was Robert Coppée, who scored a hat-trick past Spain's Ricardo Zamora.[142] In the interwar period, topscorer Bernard Voorhoof[60] and "Belgium's football grandmaster" Raymond Braine[143]—both strikers—were among the most outstanding Belgian footballers.[144]

Player on the pitch in national team outfit
Paul Van Himst

Gifted players in the 1940s and 1950s included attackers Jef Mermans, Pol Anoul and Rik Coppens, and centre-back Louis Carré.[36] The 1960s and early 1970s were the glory days of forward and four-time Belgian Golden Shoe Paul Van Himst,[145] later elected as the Belgian UEFA Golden Player of 1954–2003[146] and Belgium's Player of the Century by IFFHS.[147] Decades after Coppens and Van Himst had retired from playing football, a journalist on a Flemish television show asked them, "Who [from both of you] was the best, actually?". Coppens replied, "I will ask Paul that ... If Paul says it was me, then he's right".[148] In 1966, striker Raoul Lambert and defending midfielder Wilfried Van Moer joined the national team;[60] while Lambert was praised for his skills at Euro 1972,[149] Van Moer won three Golden Shoes.[145]

Belgium has seen two talented waves since 1980, with several players in defensive positions gaining international fame. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Belgium's world-class footballers included goalkeepers Jean-Marie Pfaff[150][151] and Michel Preud'homme,[151][152] and midfielder Jan Ceulemans,[150][153] who played alongside right-back Eric Gerets,[154] midfielders Enzo Scifo[155] and Franky Van der Elst,[156] and strikers Luc Nilis[157] and Erwin Vandenbergh.[158] All of these players had retired from international football by 2000.[60]

During the 12 years in which Belgium qualified for no major tournaments, another golden generation matured, most of whom later featured in foreign top football leagues—in particular the English Premier League. As of July 2013, 12 Belgian national team players would play the next season in England's top division.[159] The attacking compartment of this generation comprises forwards Kevin Mirallas, Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke and Divock Origi, and wingers Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Kevin De Bruyne. The central midfield includes Mousa Dembélé, Marouane Fellaini, Axel Witsel and Radja Nainggolan. The defence consists of outfield players Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld, and goalkeepers Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet.[77][79]

Records and fixtures[edit]

As of 13 November 2015, the complete official match record of the Belgian national team comprises 733 games: 300 wins, 158 draws and 275 losses.[26][H] During these games the team scored 1,242 times and conceded 1,212 goals. Belgium reached its highest winning margin against San Marino (10–1) and Zambia (9–0).[24] Their longest winning streak is seven wins in two periods and their unbeaten record is 14 consecutive official games.[24][H]

The entire match record can be examined on the following articles:

Upcoming fixtures stand at the 2010s results page. These include group matches from Belgium's finished Euro 2016 qualification campaign:

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Qualification Belgium Wales Bosnia and Herzegovina Israel Cyprus Andorra
1  Belgium 10 7 2 1 24 5 +19 23 Qualify for final tournament 0–0 3–1 3–1 5–0 6–0
2  Wales 10 6 3 1 11 4 +7 21 1–0 0–0 0–0 2–1 2–0
3  Bosnia and Herzegovina 10 5 2 3 17 12 +5 17 Advance to play-offs 1–1 2–0 3–1 1–2 3–0
4  Israel 10 4 1 5 16 14 +2 13 0–1 0–3 3–0 1–2 4–0
5  Cyprus 10 4 0 6 16 17 −1 12 0–1 0–1 2–3 1–2 5–0
6  Andorra 10 0 0 10 4 36 −32 0 1–4 1–2 0–3 1–4 1–3
Source: UEFA
Rules for classification: Qualification tiebreakers

Competitive record[edit]

FIFA World Cup[edit]

Belgium failed to progress past the first round of their earliest five World Cup participations. After two scoreless defeats at the inaugurational World Cup in 1930,[33] the team scored in their first-round knockout games in 1934 and 1938—but only enough to save their honour.[34][35] In 1954 they tied with England (4–4 after extra time),[39] and in 1970 they won a first World Cup match, against El Salvador (3–0).[43] From 1982 until 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 opener, Belgium celebrated a 0–1 victory over defending champions Argentina. Their tournament ended in the second group stage after a Polish hat-trick from Zbigniew Boniek and a 0–1 loss against the Soviet Union.[122]

Match phase with aerial play
United States-Belgium in 1930 was the joint first ever World Cup match.

At Mexico 1986, the Belgian team achieved their best-ever World Cup run. In the knockout phase as underdogs they beat the Soviets after extra time (3–4);[160] in the regular playing time, an unnoticed offside position of Jan Ceulemans allowed him to equalise (2–2) and force the match into overtime.[161] They also beat Spain in a penalty shoot-out after a 1–1 draw, but were beaten by eventual champions Argentina in the semi-final by 2–0 and France in the third place match (4–2).[50] In the 1990 FIFA World Cup, Belgium dominated their second-round match against England by periods; Enzo Scifo hit the woodwork twice.[162] David Platt's "nearly blind" volley in the final minute of extra time led to the sudden elimination of the Belgians.[163]

In 1994, Belgium were eliminated in the second round again, losing to title defenders Germany (3–2).[52] Afterwards, the entire Belgian delegation criticised referee Kurt Röthlisberger for not having whistled a clear penalty foul on Belgian Josip Weber.[164] In 1998, three first-round draws were insufficient for Belgium to reach the knockout stage.[53] With two ties, the 2002 FIFA World Cup started poorly for Belgium, but they won the decisive group match against Russia with 3–2 score. In the second round they faced eventual World Cup winners Brazil; the Brazilians defeated Belgium by 2–0 after Marc Wilmots' headed opening goal was disallowed due to a "phantom foul" on Roque Júnior.[54][165]

In 2014, Belgium beat all their group opponents with the smallest margin.[82] Thereafter, they played an entertaining[166] round of 16 game against the United States, in which American goalkeeper Tim Howard made 15 saves[J] but the dominant Belgian team defeated the US in extra time (2–1).[82] In a balanced quarter-final, Argentina eliminated Belgium by 1–0.[168]

     Champions       Runners-up       Third place       Fourth place

UEFA European Championship[edit]

Goalkeeper who reaches high for the ball and bumps into a teammate
Jean-Marie Pfaff performing a save during the Euro 1980 group match against England

With four successful qualification campaigns out of 13, Belgium's performance in the European Championship does not match their World Cup record. Belgium has hosted or co-hosted the event twice: in 1972 they were chosen from three candidates to host the event,[K] and in 2000 UEFA had accepted a joint bid from Belgium and the Netherlands.[L][56]

At Euro 1972, Belgium finished third after losing 1–2 against West Germany and beating Hungary 2–1.[44] The team's best continental result is their unexpected second place at the Euro 1980 in Italy. By finishing first in their group, Belgium reached the final, in which they faced West Germany. The West German Horst Hrubesch scored first, but René Vandereycken equalised on penalty. Two minutes before the regular playing time ended, Hrubesch's second goal for West Germany ended Belgian hopes of a first Henri Delaunay Trophy win.[48]

At Euro 1984 in their last and decisive group match against Denmark the Belgian team took a 0–2 lead, but the Danes won the match 3–2.[55] Sixteen years later, Belgium automatically reappeared at UEFA's national team tournament as co-hosts. After winning the Euro 2000 opener against Sweden 2–1,[172] two 2–0 losses against eventual runners-up Italy and Turkey eliminated the Belgians from the tournament by the end of the group stage.[56]

     Champions       Runners-up       Third place       Fourth place

Summer Olympic Games[edit]

Aerial play with two Belgian players and the Luxembourg keeper trying to touch the ball
Hectic phase during the goal-rich Olympic win against Luxembourg in 1928 (5–3)

Football tournaments for senior men's national teams took place in six Summer Olympics between 1908 and 1936. The Belgian team participated in all three Olympic football tournaments in the 1920s and won the gold medal on home soil in 1920.[30][31][32] 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,[173] and in 2008 Belgium's U-23 selection placed fourth.[67]

Belgium's 1920 Olympic squad was given a bye into the quarter-finals, where they won 3–1 against Spain, and reached the semi-finals, where they beat the Netherlands 3–0. In the first half of their final against Czechoslovakia, the Belgians led 2–0.[30] Forward Robert Coppée had converted a discussed early penalty and the action in which attacker Henri Larnoe had doubled the score was also 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;[29] these complaints were dismissed and the Czechoslovaks were disqualified.[36] The 2–0 score was allowed to stand and Belgium were crowned the champions.[36]

     Gold       Silver       Bronze

Team image[edit]

Media coverage[edit]

Journalist, seated in the stands and speaking into a microphone
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 made on 3 May 1931 when journalist Gust De Muynck commentated on Belgium versus the Netherlands on radio—the first broadcast of a Belgian sporting event.[175] Decades later, television became a more popular medium for football broadcasts. As 59 per cent of the Belgians speak Dutch and 41 per cent French, the national team matches are transmitted in both languages. The games are not broadcast in German—the third official language in Belgium. 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 reports.[176]

Initially the matches were mainly transmitted on public television channels: the former BRTN in Dutch and the RTBF in French. Since 1994, commercial channels such as vtm and its sister channel Kanaal 2, and VIER in Flanders, have been purchasing broadcasting rights.[1] The round-of-16 match against the United States at the 2014 World Cup was the most-watched television programme in Belgian history so far, with an audience of over four million viewers out of 11.2 million Belgian citizens.[177] The Belgian broadcasting right holders for the Euro 2016 qualifiers were VRT, RTBF, and cable broadband providers BeTV and Telenet.[178]

In April 2014, the VRT started transmitting a nine-piece behind-the-scenes documentary about the national team filmed during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, titled Iedereen Duivel ("Everybody Devil").[179] Telenet broadcast an eight-piece documentary about individual players titled Rode Helden ("Red Heroes").[180]


Two happy people, child and adult, in a crowd behind a crush barrier
Young Belgium fan with typical tricolour wig and makeup
  • Actions for the fans: During the 2014 World Cup qualifiers a string of interactive actions titled the Devil Challenges were organised.[181] The premise was that small groups of international players would do a favour in return for each of the five comprehensive chores their supporters completed ("colour Belgium red", "gather 500,000 decibels", etc.), all of which were accomplished.[182] In June 2013 the Belgian national team's first ever Fan Day attracted over 20,000 supporters;[183] a second edition was held after the 2014 World Cup.[184] On the days of Belgium's 2014 World Cup group matches, large dance events titled Dance with the Devils (a pun on the title of a 2001 trance album)[185] took place in three Belgian cities.[186]
  • Charity support: In 1926, an unofficial match against the Netherlands was held exclusively as a charity fundraiser.[187] In mid-1986, when the Belgian delegation reached the Mexico World Cup semi-finals, the team started a project titled Casa Hogar on the impulse of delegation leader Michel D'Hooghe.[188] Casa Hogar is a home for street children in the industrial Mexican city Toluca, to which the footballers donated part of their tournament bonuses.[189] 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.[190][191]
  • Anti-racism campaigns: In 2002, the national squad posed with anti-racist slogans.[192] In 2010 a home Euro 2012 qualifier was given the theme of respect for diversity; this UEFA-supported action was part of the European FARE Action Week.[193] Ex-Red Devil Dimitri Mbuyu—the first black Belgium player (in 1987)[60][194]—was engaged as godfather, and other foreign current and former footballers who played in the Belgian top division participated.[195]


"Cycling is the traditional national sport of Belgium, but soccer is the most popular."

—Historian Richard Henshaw, 1979[11]

Supporters of the Belgian national team display the country's tricolour national flag, usually with an emphasis on the red element. In 2012, local fan clubs merged into one large Belgian supporters' federation named 1895 after the foundation year of the RBFA. One year later, 1895 had 24,000 members.[196] The nationwide interest in the football squad has also been reflected by the occasional presence of Belgian kings at their matches since 1914.[197][198][199] One of the greatest moments for the Belgian team and their 12th man was in mid-1986 when the Belgian delegation at the Mexico World Cup received a warm "welcome home". When the World Cup semi-finalists appeared on the balcony of Brussels Town Hall, the adjoining Grand Place square was filled with an ecstatic crowd that cheered as though their team had won a major tournament.[200]

Number 1895 in red and bold, with the digit 9 carrying devil's horns and tail
Logo of the national fan federation

After the six consecutive World Cup qualifications between 1982 and 2002, the team's failure to reach the end stages of the next five European and world championships meant a severe popularity strain for the national side. Between 2004 and 2010, local journalists described the Belgian footballing nation as "deadly sick".[201][202] Some fans kept supporting their team in the bad days; Ludo Rollenberg was one of the most loyal fans because he attended the team's games worldwide since 1990. He only missed the Japanese Kirin Cup in 1999 and two other matches by 2006,[203] and was the only supporter to attend their match in Armenia in 2009.[204] In 2008, hope surged when Belgium's U-23 won fourth place at the Olympics in Beijing;[67] several of these Olympians later appeared in the senior team.[60]

During the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, interactive actions called the Devil Challenges and a Fan Day strengthened the bond with supporters. Just before the kick-off of a home qualifier, Belgium's footballers saw a first tifo banner, sized 10.5 by 11.5 metres (34 by 38 ft) and depicting a devil in the national colours.[205] The many players who appeared in foreign high-level football leagues and promising results under Marc Wilmots increased fans' enthusiasm and belief in a successful World Cup campaign.[183][206] Because of this popularity peak, two Belgian monuments were decorated in national colours for the 2014 FIFA World Cup event; the Manneken Pis statue received a child-sized version of the new Belgian uniform,[207] while facets of the Atomium's upper sphere were covered in black, yellow and red vinyl.[208]


Since 2012, the team logo is a red trident (or three-pronged pitchfork),[209] an attribute that is often associated with the devil. Before that, the national team has had three official anthropomorphous mascots. Their first was a lion in team kit named Diabolix,[210] a referral to the central symbol in the Belgian coat of arms that also appeared on the team jerseys from 1905 to 1980.[90] In accordance with the nickname "the Red Devils", a red super-devil and a fan-made modern devil were the next mascots.[210]

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.
    The title of "Royal Union" was given for its 25th year of existence, in 1920.[1]
  2. ^ Note that this match is not considered to be a full international by the English FA, and does not appear in the England team records.[7]
  3. ^ Dutch: Belgisch nationaal voetbalelftal
    French: Équipe nationale belge de football
    German: Belgische Fußballnationalmannschaft
  4. ^ Dutch: De Rode Duivels
    French: Les Diables Rouges
    German: Die Roten Teufel
  5. ^ UBSSA was the acronym for the organisation's French name: Union Belge des Sociétés de Sports Athlétiques.[12]
  6. ^ 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.[12]
  7. ^ According to the "three points for a win" standard
  8. ^ a b c 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 according to the Laws of the Game.[135]
  9. ^ 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 according to the Laws of the Game.[135]
  10. ^ 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.[167]
  11. ^ The other bids were from England and Italy,[170] whose teams did not reach the semi-finals.
  12. ^ UEFA preferred the Belgium-Netherlands bid to the individual bids of Spain and Austria.[171]



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Further reading[edit]

  • Aerts, Bart; Buyse, Frank; Colin, François; Cornez, Pierre; Decoster, Gilles; Deferme, Dirk; et al. (2013). De Rode Duivels. Het officiële boek (in Dutch). Veurne: Uitgeverij Kannibaal. ISBN 978-94-91376-66-5. 
  • Colin, François (2014). De Rode Duivels 1900–2014 (in Dutch). Veurne: Uitgeverij Kannibaal. ISBN 978-94-91376-77-1. 
  • Guldemont, Henry (1978). Toute l'histoire du football belge (in French). Brussels: Éditions Arts & Voyages. ISBN 2-8016-0012-1. 
  • Hubert, Christian (1994). De Montevideo à Orlando (in French). Brussels: Labor. ISBN 2-8040-1009-0. 
  • Hubert, Christian (2006). Le siècle des Diables Rouges (in French). Brussels: Luc Pire. ISBN 2-87415-684-1. 

External links[edit]