- Belgium still tops FIFA/Coca-Cola rankings
- It has not been dislodged from this position for more than a year
- The Red Devils now rely on an iron defence
As 2020 dawns, Belgium is still first and foremost in the FIFA Coca-Cola World Ranking. It has been in this position for over a year. She was able to defend her position in a year 2019 marked only by success. And “defending” is not an empty word for this team.
The Red Devils have been impressive behind throughout the UEFA EURO 2020 qualifiers. With only three goals conceded, Belgium finished the play-offs with the best defence in the competition, tied with Turkey. A remarkable performance for this team known for its offensive strength. Zoom.
Loyalty to 3-4-3
If France and its ruthless defence were right for Belgium’s flamboyant and attacking play in the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup, Russia 2018, the coach of the Red Devils Roberto Martinez has not changed anything tactically since this bitter elimination. The results prove him right. His 3-4-3 continues to sparkle.
In front, it’s still as effective: Belgium scored more goals than any other team during the playoffs (40). And behind it, it is clear that this has solidified: the team has conceded only three goals. That’s half as much as in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, for the same number of teams in the qualifying pool (6).
The opinion of Roberto Martinez : “My group has matured. But what I really appreciate is his personality. Tactically, we grow a little more every day” (Rossel)
The embarrassment of choice
Martinez’s main changes relate to the choice of incumbents. They fluctuate according to the injuries. Former defence stalwart Vincent Kompany, in particular, has not been spared from physical glitches. He has played only two matches with the Red Devils 2019.
Jason Denayer (Olympique Lyonnais), Elias Cobbaut (Anderlecht), and Dedrick Boyata (Hertha Berlin) are now in the rotation of the trio, alongside Tottenham duo Jan Vertonghen – Toby Alderweireld. The latter is the only player to have participated in the 10 matches played by Belgium in 2019.
This trio is supported not only by a pair of defensive midfielders in which Youri Tielemans regularly appears, but also by two laterals, positions to which Timothy Castagne has recently emerged on the right and Thorgan Hazard on the left.
The opinion of Roberto Martinez : “The team is stronger than at the World Cup. We have more options, we have more competition for places in the team. We have to keep working. We have to be careful, that is the international level. 2019 has been a fantastic year. We’ve grown up. We’re first in the FIFA rankings. And we can say that our qualifications have been exceptional” (RTBF)
Good is Courtois
The goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is far from foreign to the good results of his team. Out of nine matches played, he has signed no less than seven clean-sheets, and only looked for the ball in the back of his net twice. Statistics that sum up the return to grace of the Belgian doorman, in difficulty the few months after the World Cup.
Today, he has indeed returned to his best level in selection as well as in club. For if Belgium finished with the best defense of the euro qualifiers, Real Madrid is at the same time the team that has conceded the fewest goals (13) among the main championships of the Old Continent.
The opinion of Roberto Martinez : “Thibaut Courtois is for me the number 1 in the world, and has been for several years now, at the club and national team level. You won’t find another goalkeeper who meets the requirement to be able to be in the goal of a team that must win every game” (Press Conference)