BELGIUM

BELGIUM'S PREPARATION GAMES
 
BELGIUM-The Netherlands 5:5
BELGIUM-Morocco 4:0
BELGIUM-England 1:2
BELGIUM-Portugal 1:1
BELGIUM-Italy 3:1
BELGIUM-The Netherlands 2:2
BELGIUM-Norway 2:0
   
Even if the Belgian national team only hangs around on place 30 in the
FIFA world rankings this should under no cicumstances mislead about the
stunning recent form the team is currently in. After a change of coaches
last year and minor tactical changes especially in offense Belgium has
played very convincingly in the past couple of games.

It seems as if coach Robert Waseige has found 16 or 17 players who keep
the team together and with this united team efford seem to be able to
beat any opponent. Even young players like Mark Hendrikx seem to be able
to add to this roster infinitely. The morale in the national team is as
high as it hasn't been since World Cup 1986 in Mexico and every player
can be replaced perfectly.


TACTICS

Tactically seen the Belgians play a 4-4-2 but they can play 4-3-3 or
4-5-1 as well whereas in defense they always stick to the traditional
flat back four. In midfield they often play with one defensive player,
often personified by Vanderhaege as "sweeper" who has to stress on
offense as well watch the back of the playmaker.

The wingers are playing offensively as well and are often well used.
They are not very dangerous in front of the goal yet though. The spot
in the offensive midfield is occupied by Schalke 04's "Battlepig" Marc
Wilmots who has an incredible workrate and is involved in most attacks.
Wilmots is the heart and soul of the Belgian team and without him as
playmaker the offensive game is completely static and there is a sheer
infinite vacuum between midfield and attack as seen recently against
Norway where Wilmots was missing due to a light injury.

Up front Emile Mpenza has a guaranteed first team spot while the second
striker has to adjust to Mpenza's style of play. This was done best by
Branko Strupar but he's currently going through a bad spell. But in Luc
Nilis, Gilles De Bilde and Toni Brogno coach Waseige has three more 1st
class strikers available. In goal the Belgian coach has several quality
alternatives to his n1, Filip De Wilde, because with Geert De Vlieger
and Ronny Gaspercic he has two internationally experienced keepers as
well.

The eventual lineup might look like this :
 
E Mpenza Strupar
   
Wilmots
 
Goor Verheyen
   
Vanderhaege
 
Leonard Valgaeren Staelens Deflandre
       
De Wilde
 
STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES

Belgium plays a style with strong emphasis on fighting spirit whereas
every player has to do a lot of running. Through aggressive pressing
they often try to force the opponent to make mistakes which can be
converted by quick counterattacks. But also with their short passing
game the "Red Devils" can create dangerous scoring chances and if the
opponent lets them play their moves quickly become safer and then they
can play any defense into the ground.

Sadly one misses the "suprise effect" in the Belgian game, a good cross
or a precise through pass. And in set play the players still commit too
many grave mistakes which lead to unnecessary goals against. A strength
of the team is their fighting spirit and moral and you'll have to add
the exploitation of chances by the attackers as well. But you'll also
have to say that Belgium has great trouble defending a lead and coolly
playing on after taking the lead.


STARS

Even if it seems that this Belgian team has no first-class international
stars there are still some players it's worth having a closer look at:

ATTACK

There is EMILE MPENZA who is known beyond Belgium not only since
his multi-million move from Standard Liege to Schalke 04. "Magic" like
Schalke's fans affectionately call him is not only lightning quick and
immensely dangerous in the area but he also strikes as intelligent team
player. Especially in the national team "Magic" Mpenza blossomed and had
some World Class performances in the past. Above all his exploitation in
front of the goal is often overwhelming.

MIDFIELD

In midfield Schalke's playmaker and driving force MARC WILMOTS
is the key. This always fighting midfielder is the "thinker and driver"
of the team. Without him the whole offensive game seems to collapse and
the strikers seem to starve up front.

DEFENSE

In defense everything revolves around old hand LORENZO STAELENS
who guides the back four. He carries the responsibility and this way the
young players can perform very calmly without all the pressure. But also
because of his enormous battle power and incredible workrate he holds
the defense together and mediates his teammates a feeling of safety.
He is Waseige's "extended arm" on the pitch who coordinates everything
and passes the orders of the coach on to his teammates.


OUTLOOK

Even if Belgium cannot be considered hands down favourites to take it
all they are seen as a safe bet for the quarterfinal here in Belgium.
And everybody who has either seen the 5-5 or 2-2 against the Netherlands
or the 2-0 victory over Norway will surely know: Belgium is one of the
"insider tips" for Euro 2000.

Robert Waseige and the Belgian FA will be well prepared because since
May 15th 24 players are in the training camp. After the condition
training in the first couple of days he will strongly emphasize on
tactics so the dream of Euro 2000 won't become a nightmare.

At the end of the preparation phase Belgium will once again take on
Norway as well as a couple of other regional and national teams.
After the 4 weeks of training things will become dead serious again
in the opening match against Sweden where Belgium will have the task
of restoring the chipped image of Belgian football through inspiring
games.

Preview written by :
Philipp Reinertz
organized by Alexander Stoffels (
AlexSVW@village.uunet.be)
translated by Tim (
tim@milanmania.com)