St. Petersburg Brussels was upside down at the weekend and the greatest success in Belgian football history was celebrated with great enthusiasm. The jubilation of the stars about the possible Ronaldo successor Eden Hazard, on the other hand, appeared surprisingly businesslike. The Red Devils had bigger things in mind for a long time: Third place at the World Cup in Russia is said to have only been the beginning of an era for Belgium’s “brilliant generation”. And so almost all top players gave the title in Qatar in 2022 as their goal immediately after the 2-0 (1-0) against England in the World Cup match for third place.
“I hope that things will be a little better in four years. Our goal is definitely to be at the top, ”said goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. “We won six out of seven games. We gave people a lot of joy. And the rest might come at the next World Cup, ”said ex-Wolfsburg Kevin De Bruyne. And even coach Roberto Martínez said briskly: “We have developed into a team that can achieve anything.”
It seemed as if the anger about the missed opportunity was superimposed on the great pride of the best place Belgium had ever achieved at a World Cup. Even the fourth place of the golden 1986 generation was surpassed. Because this generation is a “brilliant” one, as the former Bayern goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff, 1986 regular goalkeeper, has already discovered these days.
Nevertheless, something unfinished shrouds it. Because the title, that could be heard in all statements, they all considered realistic and feasible. When asked whether Hazard should be voted the best player in the World Cup, Martínez replied: “The winners of these awards usually play on the winning team. If we had been in the final, one or the other of us would certainly have had the chance to win this election. “
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Meanwhile, the fans were very satisfied with what had been achieved. In Brussels there were car parades and horn concerts as well as a big reception for the team on Sunday. When asked whether he would rather go on vacation straight away, ex-Hamburger Vincent Kompany replied: “People want to party and have a beer. They need us for that, so we come. ”And the veteran said almost imploringly to his young and ambitious teammates:“ We now have a medal for our country. That’s why we have to be satisfied. “
What gives the Belgians hope for an era: The best players in Russia – Courtois (currently 26), De Bruyne, Hazard (both 27) and Romelu Lukaku (25) – could still be in Qatar in terms of age in 2022. With the complete three-way defense chain, consisting of Toby Alderweireld (29), Kompany (32) and record national player Jan Vertonghen (31), this is questionable. No defensive player in the current line-up was younger than 27. “I really hope that a good generation will follow,” said Courtois.
For Hazard, the strong World Cup should have paid off one way or another. He is being discussed as the successor to Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid and on Saturday indicated his departure from Chelsea in an unusually frank way. “I’ve been with Chelsea for six years and played a great World Cup,” said Mönchengladbach’s brother Thorgan Hazard: “Maybe it’s time to do something different.”
In England, after finishing fourth, they weren’t nearly as euphoric as on the other side. “We were among the best four teams here, but we know that we are not yet among the four best,” said coach Gareth Southgate: “We see our performance very realistically and we are not blinded by the many praise. We have to and will improve a lot. “