Belgium is a country with a great football tradition. Belgian football has gradually grown to become one of the world’s benchmarks. Home-grown stars have emerged as international superstars and all have been brought up in Belgium’s increasingly competitive grassroots football.
In this article we take a look back at the best moments of the Belgian national team, home to the country’s best footballers. A look back at the long history of the national team, showing the development of national talent and the country’s growing football community.
History of the Belgian national team
The history of the Belgian national team goes back more than a hundred years. On 1 May 1904, Belgium played 3-3 France, the first match in the history of the Belgian international team. It was the starting point of a history that, despite not winning any major titles, has been full of success.
Belgium at the World Cups
The Belgian national football team has grown gradually. In its first World Cup, it finished 11th at Uruguay 1930. They did not get beyond the first round until Spain 1982, losing in the second round. In Mexico 1986 they reached their first semi-finals, laying the foundation stone for Belgium’s golden generation.
They went on to reach the Round of 16 at Italy 1990, USA 1994 and South Korea and Japan 2002. After missing out on Germany and South Africa, the golden generation led by Hazard, Lukaku and De Bruyne reached the quarter-finals at Brazil 2014 and the semi-finals at Russia 2018, finishing third, their best result.
Belgium at the European Championships
Surprisingly, Belgium has less history at European Championships than at World Cups. Only six appearances, two of them as hosts. Its best finish came in its second appearance, at Italy 1980, when it lost in the final to West Germany. From 1988 to 2012, the Belgian national football team only competed at the European Championship in 2000.
The golden generation of the Belgian national football team has once again made it to the European Championships on a regular basis. They reached the quarter-finals at France 2016 and at the multi-site EURO 2020. Their only international title came at the 1920 Olympic Games, when they won the gold medal.
Best players of the Belgium national team
The Belgium national team has enjoyed its best players in recent times. A star-studded line-up of Courtois, Vermaelen, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Witsel, De Bruyne, Hazard, Lukaku, Mertens and many more. All of them, led by a Spanish coach, Roberto Martinez.
All of them have replaced the all-time greats of Belgium’s national team, who competed in previous years. The current stars are already in the rankings of most capped and highest scoring players.
Players with most appearances and goals
The list of players with the most appearances for Belgium’s national football team is led by Jan Vertonghen with 132 appearances. He is followed by Axel Witsel and Toby Alderweireld with 116, Eden Hazar with 114, Dries Mertens with 102 and Romelu Lukaku with 100. The first retired player to appear on the list is Jan Ceulemans, who made 96 appearances between 1977 and 1991.
The list of top scorers for the Belgian national football team is led by Romelu Lukaku. The striker of Congolese descent has scored 68 goals. Second-placed Eden Hazard is far behind with 33 goals. The podium is completed by legends Bernard Voorhoof and Paul Van Himst with 30 goals each.
Relationship between Spanish and Belgian football
The relationship between Spanish and Belgian football centres on the bench: Roberto Martínez. The Catalan coach has been in charge of the Belgium national football team since 2016 and has captained the country’s golden generation of players. He has given them a strong Spanish influence in their game.
This influence has marked the path of Belgian football. Many young players from Belgium travel to Spain to learn football. The international academies are the right place for them. SIA Academy has several Belgian players who come to maximise their talent and learn tactics and technique.
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