1 Thibaut Courtois goalkeeper, Atlético Madrid
2 Toby Alderweireld defender, Atlético Madrid
3 Thomas Vermaelen defender, Arsenal
4 Vincent Kompany (captain) defender, Manchester City
5 Jan Vertonghen defender, Tottenham Hotspur
6 Axel Witsel midfielder, Zenit Saint Petersburg
7 Kevin De Bruyne midfielder, Wolfsburg
8 Marouane Fellaini midfielder, Manchester United
9 Romelu Lukaku forward, Everton
10 Eden Hazard midfielder, Chelsea
11 Kevin Mirallas midfielder, Everton
12 Simon Mignolet goalkeeper, Liverpool
13 Sammy Bossut goalkeeper, Zulte Waregem
14 Dries Mertens forward, Napoli
15 Daniel Van Buyten defender, Bayern Munich
16 Steven Defour midfielder, Porto
17 Divock Origi forward, Lille
18 Nicolas Lombaerts defender, Zenit Saint Petersburg
19 Mousa Dembélé midfielder, Tottenham Hotspur
20 Adnan Januzaj midfielder, Manchester United
21 Anthony Vanden Borre defender, Anderlecht
22 Nacer Chadli midfielder, Tottenham Hotspur
23 Laurent Ciman defender, Standard Liège
Eden Hazard is not the easiest player to manage at times – as José Mourinho will testify (forgotten passport before a Champions League tie at Schalke; catastrophic defensive gaffe against Atlético Madrid) – and not Belgium’s most influential player in qualifying (De Bruyne surpassed him with four goals and four assists) but the Chelsea playmaker is unquestionably the country’s talisman. Hopefully he’ll turn up at the airport to catch the flight to Brazil with his passport.
Most likely to be sent home in disgrace
Marouane Fellaini. It’s those elbows. They’re dangerous, not in a Leonardo-on-Tab-Ramos-in-1994 sort of way, but nasty all the same. You certainly wouldn’t want to run into one of them, which is what Fellaini claimed Pablo Zabaleta did in March. “That’s the funniest thing I have ever heard in my life,” the Manchester City defender said.
Marc Wilmots, class act as an attacking midfielder and a person, is popular with his talented young group and getting the best out of them.
Neighbours Holland aren’t the worst of enemies – but they’re not best friends either. An epic Derby der Lage Landen/les Pays-Bas took place in 1985, when Belgium beat the Dutch in a World Cup play-off that featured some shameful play-acting from Franky Vercauteren, Ruud Gullit in tights and the late header that made Georges Grun a national hero.
The Paradise Golf and Lake Resort, 50km from São Paulo, was persuaded by Wilmots to stock a lake with trout so that his squad can enjoy a spot of fishing to relax. “When I was a player, Belgium always seemed to be based in monasteries, and it was impossible to keep your sanity for a month,” said Wilmots, whose six-minute guided tour of the hotel and its grounds is available on YouTube.
How they qualified
Highly impressively, eight wins and no defeats, as they put Wales,Scotland, Croatia and Serbia to the sword in Group A.
World Cup high
Came fourth in Mexico 1986, beating the USSR and Spain in knockouts, losing to winners Argentina in the semis and France in the third-place play-off.
World Cup low
Disappointingly failed to qualify for 2006 and 2010 – but now have a generation to eclipse the good times of Enzo Scifo and company.
Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Mousa Dembélé (Tottenham), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Nacer Chadli (Tottenham), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea, on loan Everton), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City).
The stereotype is …
Technical, boring, not especially good, tended to rely on one exciting player per team and surround him with water carriers.
The reality is …
Absolutely bursting with young talent, hard to know who to leave out. Still, look at how certain other ‘Golden Generations’ have done. Set up in a fluid 4-3-3, with the accomplished Axel Witsel anchoring midfield, Belgium will look to Kevin De Bruyne (former Chelsea) and Eden Hazard (Chelsea for now) to provide the craft and guile and Romelu Lukaku (on Chelsea’s books) the goals. So more a royal blue generation than a golden one.
What they’re known for
Frites 40 per cent
Beer 40 per cent
Absence of famous people 20 per cent
How Google translates the national anthem
Is available in about 27 languages, Google machine blew up translating German into Dutch and back into Walloon via French.
Better hope they only play one of the versions.
How to dress like their fans
Commentator’s go-to stat
Supporters filled the national stadium with 46,000 children’s drawings of national team players. Relations between fans and players are excellent.