What if the Brabançonne resonated on the evening of July 11 in the warm air of Wembley? There are, in any case, at least twenty-six subjects of King Philip to believe hard as iron. Third in the Russian World Cup and leader of the Fifa ranking for almost a thousand days, the smallest country to have ever occupied this place (the only one, too, still virgin of any record), Belgium advances to the Euro with arguments. Not for nothing that the algorithms of the investment bank Goldman Sachs, whose forecasts are authoritative before each tournament, attribute to him the final victory.
How far are the days when the former co-organizers of the tournament (in 2000) went out anonymously in the first round: the “Devils”, impeccable intercommunity cement of a fractured country (with its pantheon in equal parts between Walloons, Flemings and players from immigrant backgrounds), ubiquitous figures in advertising and public space, have once again become a base of national pride which has in the background local talents in field hockey and cobblestone cycling. The only thing missing today is a trophy in order to capsize the Grand-Place in Brussels for good and crystallize the patriotic feeling around a memory other than the victory at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1986.
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Spectacular and aesthetic team
Timidly spoken in the early 2010s, the words “Golden generation” have become a cliché. Thorgan Hazard, little brother and teammate of Eden, the number one star of the team, can come forward without trembling at a press conference by evoking “The best Belgian team of all time”, surpassing the old glories of the 1980s (Pfaff, Gerets, Ceulemans et al). At each line, the Red Devils have experienced and world-class individuals: Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois always spreads his double meter under the crossbar; aging and now deprived of Vincent Kompany, the defense can still count on the thirty-something Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Vermaelen, but also on full-backs capable of projecting themselves forward like the former Parisian Thomas Meunier.
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The midfielder remains on paper one of the best in the world with his dazzling recovery game in short passes, signing of the flamboyant game driven by the Spanish coach Roberto Martinez for five years. Despite the uncertainties weighing on Eden Hazard, out of form after two seasons marked by injuries, Kevin De Bruyne, conductor badly damaged in the Champions League final (fractured nose and orbital floor) and Axel Witsel, too back from injury, Belgium will still be able to field Tielemans, Chadli and Thorgan Hazard at the start of the competition, which should be enough to get rid of the Russians, Danes and Finns. But the main certainty of the Devils today lies on the front of the attack with Romelu Lukaku, physical bulldozer and goal machine (already 60 in the Belgian jersey!), Who seems, at 28, to reach the peak of his career with Inter Milan. Spectacular and aesthetic team, Belgium is also one of the selections that scores the most in the world: another 40 goals in the qualifiers, ahead of England and Italy (37), with only one defeat in 24 games since the World Cup … and the disillusionment with the Blues.
“If we have the opportunity to take revenge …”
Finally, it is necessary to mention it: the stifling semi-final of Saint Petersburg, following the most resounding feat in the history of Belgian football against Neymar’s Brazil, remains, across Quiévrain, like a worthy red iron of our “Seville 82”: an injustice to be erased from the shelves, of those that are only evoked by lowering their voices. Ironically, the Belgians will start their Euro on Saturday night in the same Krestovski stadium where they left their dreams three years ago.
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It must be said also: our compatriots, whose genius of the bad loser is no longer to be proven, knew how to show unsuspected qualities in the category of the execrable winner, and a relentlessness in the heavy sarcasm which probably constitutes the greatest challenge ever posed to Franco-Belgian friendship, surpassing debates on the paternity of Johnny Hallyday, Annie Cordy and samurai sauce. Three years later, the immense post-match frustration of the Devils, from the panache of Eden Hazard (“I would rather lose with Belgium than win with France”) to the spite of Thibaut Courtois (“We lost against a team that plays for nothing”), still constitutes an inexhaustible fuel for courageously endured quarters, around a concept that has come to fruition with this historic event: the “Seum”. A word which, being derived from Algerian Arabic (“venom”) and therefore little used in Belgium, is now closely linked to the events of July 10, 2018 and retains an intact ability to immediately tense the atmosphere around a bend. phrasing.
Of course, resentment is not unanimous and water has flowed under the bridges. The coach Roberto Martinez, however, did not stop repeating the film of the tragedy: “Nine players and the goalkeeper were defending”, he analyzed the second anniversary of the match, traumatized by the unbearable slowness of the French game, curled up after the opening of Umtiti’s score from a corner. “It stuck between our teeth, that’s clear”, added striker Michy Batshuayi last fall. “If we have the opportunity to take revenge, we will take revenge, I hope. “ A date has already been checked: next October 7, for another semi-final against France, that of the most anecdotal League of Nations. If a more flashy revenge were to take place early, the Devils would gladly take it. And no doubt we will know how to accept, as a mature people broken with the glorious uncertainty of sport, that the seum and the taunts change one day of camp.
- Saturday June 12, 9 p.m .: Russia – Belgium, in St. Petersburg
- Thursday June 17, 6 p.m .: Denmark – Belgium, in Copenhagen
- Monday June 21, 9 p.m .: Belgium – Finland, in St. Petersburg