With many of their best players either already retired or approaching the end of their careers, will Euro 2024 be the last ride for a Belgium squad that promised so much?

Historically, Belgium are not an international footballing powerhouse known for title-winning runs, endless European Championship or World Cup appearances, and certainly not an overflowing trophy cabinet.

Nevertheless, the Red Devils led the FIFA World Rankings for quite a while in recent years and have recorded important victories over Brazil and Portugal at recent international tournaments.

Over the years, their squad has been littered with world-class players like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, but despite those big names, Belgium have little to show for it.

With many of their stars closing in on the back end of their careers, could an ageing team finally bring home a title at Euro 2024?  

Some of those names won’t even feature in Germany this summer. Hazard retired from football in October 2023, Alderweireld hasn’t been called up to Domenico Tedesco’s squad despite two strong years at Royal Antwerp, while Courtois will have to watch his former teammates from home due to a complicated relationship with his national team manager.

Familiar faces like Lukaku, De Bruyne, Vertonghen and Axel Witsel will travel to Germany though; each on the back of really good seasons at club level.

Lukaku heads into the tournament as the top-scoring player in Euro 2024 qualifying. The Roma striker enjoyed another strong campaign domestically too, scoring 13 goals in Serie A, his fourth year of registering 10+ strikes in as many Serie A seasons.

In fact, since first arriving in the Italian top flight in 2019-20, just three players have been involved in more goals than the former Manchester United striker, who has played at least eight matches fewer than any other player in the below ranking.

Most goal involvements since 19-20 Serie A

But it’s mainly Lukaku’s incredible numbers for his country that make him a dangerous prospect for any opposition defence.

Still only 31 years old, Lukaku has already netted 85 goals for Belgium and might even enter the top five all time for international goals during the next few weeks.

Most international goals all time

Kevin De Bruyne comes into Euro 2024 fresh off winning his sixth Premier League title. Thanks to his 10 assists in the Premier League in 2023-24, the Belgian playmaker passed legendary figures Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Cesc Fàbregas in the competition’s all-time assists rankings, with only Ryan Giggs still above him.

In all competitions, De Bruyne averaged an assist every 103 minutes (17 in 1,749) last season. That made him the most frequent assister of all players in Europe’s top five leagues who created at least five assists in 2023-24. That’s pretty good going, considering he spent the first half of the campaign out injured.

De Bruyne xA 23-24

At international level, despite being surrounded by incredible quality over the years, De Bruyne hasn’t really managed to drive Belgium on like he does at Man City. He recorded three goal involvements in each of his first four major tournaments (3 goals and 9 assists in total) but failed to contribute to a goal at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

De Bruyne’s last goal involvement at a major tournament was an assist against Finland in the group stage of Euro 2020, with his current run of five Euros/World Cup games without contributing to a goal his longest ever.

While they won’t have all their old favourites with them in Germany, Belgium still have plenty of experience. Four of their eight most-capped players in history are part of Tedesco’s squad, including their most experienced in Vertonghen (154 caps) and Witsel (132).

Belgium most caps all time

The so-called ‘Golden Generation’ will need help from some young stars and fresh blood if Belgium are to finally grab their first international title, though.

That help could come from two of Europe’s rising stars; Man City’s Jérémy Doku and PSV’s Johan Bakayoko.

The two wingers seem to be carbon copies of each other. Both specialise in dribbling, one-on-ones and have astonishing speed, allowing them to beat opponents with their technique or simply raw pace alone.

Looking at all players in Europe’s top six Leagues (according to the UEFA association club coefficients), both Doku and Bakayoko rank exceptionally highly in many of the same rankings.

Most dribbles top 6 leagues 23-24
Most opp half take ons top 6 leagues 23-24

Doku and Bakayoko didn’t only perform well in the Premier League and Eredivisie respectively, but also showed off their abilities in the UEFA Champions League.

Among all players with 270+ minutes, Doku (299 minutes played) ranked joint-fifth for attacking sequence involvements (9.3 – along with teammate Rodri).

Of all players with 540+ minutes, Bakayoko (653 minutes played) came in fourth (8.3), ahead of a certain Kylian Mbappé (8.2).

UCL ASI min 270 minutes 23-24
UCL ASI min 540 minutes 23-24

With a combination of one of the world’s best-performing international strikers in Lukaku, a world-class creator in De Bruyne and two lightning-fast dribblers in Doku and Bakayoko, Belgium look to have the components to be considered possible contenders.

Given the age profile of their squad, this could well be the last chance for this generation of players.

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