As the above-pictured Romelu Lukaku (Everton WOO!!!!) goal may remind you, Belgium are the side that took out los Estados Unidos in the Round of Sixteen at the 2014 World Cup (aka, the last time fellow Evertonian Tim Howard wasn’t a sack of monkeyshit). Unlike his Cutler-sulky Blues teammate Kevin Mirallas (left of the final 23), Big Rom is beastlier than EVAR, and back for MOAR in France for Euro 2016. Hold onto your anuses, Group E.
Is Belgium Like “Good Good” Or Is Hippo Just Crushing On Lukaku AGAIN? First of all…FACK YOU!!! Second of all, I was surprised to see that the Red Devils are only 11th in the Elo World Football Rankings (as of 4 June), but all the way up in 2nd according to FIFA’s secret sauce (as of 2 June).
Who (other than Big Rom) Should One Pay Attention To? Coach Marc Wilmots is kind of a dick, so Lukaku might not even start. And to be fair, the Red Devils do have an embarrassment of riches in attacking options, if you discount the contributions of Redshite such as Divock Origi and Christian Benteke (at least one of which should have been left off for Mirallas). Chelski’s Eden Hazard, young “name of the tourney” candidate Michy Batshuayi of Marseille, Atletico’s Yannick Carrasco, City’s Kevin De Bruyne…Belgium can attack you in waves, and score in bunches.
So…How Are They Not Kicking Everyone’s Ass On a Regular Basis? About that defense…losing captain Vincent Kompany (and several lesser cogs) for the tourney smarts. While the rest of the roster is made up of players mostly from elite European squads, only three Red Devil defenders (two from Tottenham and one from Barca) can make that claim. One poor fucker even plies his trade for something called the Montreal Impact, and another from an equally obscure Genk. THAT is not top-level European competition quality, my ninjas. But hey, this is a country that Hitler took over in about 37 minutes, so defense is hardly something one should readily expect from Belgium.
(always teh historical footnote, even snuck in only at the end of the KITH sketch on hating Switzerland)
The Road To the Knock-Out Stage? Difficult. This is hardly one of those noob-filled groups. Belgium starts out with fading (but still dangerous) historical power Italy (#15/#12) on 13 June (3:00pm EST, ESPN). The winner there likely takes control of Group E. Next up is Ireland (#29/#33) on 18 June (9:00am, ESPN), the footy equivalent of a root canal, sans anesthesia. Probable 1-nil win, but ya never know with those potato-eaters. Belgium closes out their group stage fun with polite, average Sweden (#30/#35) on 22 June (3:00pm, ESPN2). That’s way too tough a fixture for the “runt” of the Group, and Belgium may need a win to secure advancement.
Having never won a World Cup (best result was 4th place in 1986) or a Euros (best was runner-up in 1980), this could be the side that finally breaks through. If you want to place a bet on a “medium shot” to win it all, I would go with these lads. If nothing else, they should provide some entertainment value along the way.