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Opinion: Belgium Have Fantastic Players But Have No Idea How To Play As A Team

LILLE, FRANCE - JULY 1: Team Belgium poses prior to the UEFA Euro 2016 quarter final match between Wales and Belgium at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on July 1, 2016 in Lille, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

While England were the biggest failures of Euro 2016, Belgium have been perhaps the biggest disappointment.

Last night’s defeat to Wales, which saw the Red Devils eliminated at the quarter final stage for the second tournament in succession, was a perfect microcosm of their wider campaign – spectacular and disastrous.

In all the bluster of the opening barrage on the Welsh defence and each player focusing on their individual game, almost every one of them forgot that this was supposed to be a team effort.

Their lack of team ethic cost them, made all the more blatant by the fact that it was Wales’ biggest weapon.

But then this has been a problem with the Belgian side for some time now. One cursory glance at their luneup, littered with superstars such as Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, would suggest that on paper this should be one of the strongest teams in Europe.

And yet, they aren’t. Far from it, in fact. They suffer from the same affliction that plagued Real Madrid for years – this misguided notion that simply shunting eleven household names onto the pitch should guarantee victory.

during the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match between Wales and Belgium at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on July 1, 2016 in Lille, France.

Belgium have been, in equal measure, brilliant and horrifying at this tournament. They destroyed Ireland and Hungary with the effort of swatting a fly, and yet they had absolutely no answer when Italy and Wales fronted up to them.

What is to be inferred from that is that manager Marc Wilmots had no game plan outside of telling his players “Hey Eden Hazard, go out there and do some Eden Hazard stuff” with similar messages for De Bruyne, Lukaku, Axel Witsel, Radja Nainggolan etc.

The lack of cohesion and understanding, particularly among the defence, was startling. The first two Wales goals were the result of what could possibly be two examples of some of the worst defending ever seen at this relatively late stage of a major tournament.

For the first goal, nobody is marking Ashley Williams from the corner (whatever Jordan Lukaku was doing, it wasn’t marking) while De Bruyne inexplicably drifted behind Thibaut Courtois:

 

De Bruyne’s response to the goal was to berate Lukaku for losing Williams so easily, conveniently forgetting the fact that if he had been doing his own job then he would have cleared the header off the line.

But then that is symptomatic of the problem with this side. De Bruyne, and he’s not the only one, shouted at Lukaku because the attitude of these players is “when you make a mistake, you’re making me look bad.”

The defending for the second goal, meanwhile, was so shocking that nobody would blame Manchester City if they immediately put Jason Denayer’s contract through the shredder…

The Welsh response to going behind was fantastic, whereas Wilmots’ answer to the increasing Welsh pressure was to throw on Marouane Fellaini at half time, whatever that was supposed to achieve.

A large amount of the blame for Belgium’s issues (though blame might be a strong word) has to go back to the manager.

The 47 year old had very little managerial experience before taking the role, and yet he was entrusted with the responsibility of leading the nation’s golden generation.

Instead, all he has shown is that he has neither the authority nor charisma to handle a collection of players with egos the size of the moon. A better manager would have could have won the competition with this squad.

They don’t respect their boss, which is always going to create problems in a side. Courtois (who has become a bit too fond of insubordination) last night responded to a question relating to Wilmots’ potential departure from his role:

“This was an opportunity we may not get again. I gave him my opinion in the dressing room. He has to make his own decision.”

What can be taken from that, is that it is highly unlikely that the Chelsea goalkeeper begged his manager not to quit. Wilmots himself has only said that he needs time to think about his future as Belgian manager.

LILLE, FRANCE - JULY 01: Marc Wilmots (L) manager of Belgium instructs Axel Witsel (R) during the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match between Wales and Belgium at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on July 1, 2016 in Lille, France. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

As Wales march on to the semi-finals, Belgium reflect on a missed opportunity. For the sake of this generation of players, Wilmots needs to be a replaced by a coach who can teach them what team spirit really means. They witnessed it in action last night in their opposition, but they seemed too preoccupied with blaming each other and the officials to notice.

The Welsh team’s slogan is “Together Stronger” – perhaps that is something for the Belgians to consider.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.