Another chance for Belgium’s “golden generation”

MUNICH: There is still next year’s World Cup in Qatar to come, but Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ will know that Friday’s elimination from the European Championship is another lost opportunity.

Belgium were among the favorites for the tournament, having spent more than 1,000 days at the top of the FIFA rankings. But after losing 2-1 to Italy in Friday’s quarter-final in Munich, they admitted they were the second best of the night.

“They were two very good teams in this knockout phase, and the margins have gone to them,” said Belgian coach Roberto Martinez, who is set to stay on for a final victory to glory next year.

Belgium threatens a first big success in a tournament since reaching the last four of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but came away again empty-handed, despite a streak of 13 successive wins in qualifying for the ‘Euro and in tournament matches before Friday.

Their exit was yet another hammer blow for a team teeming with star talent but whose key elements were not in peak form for the tournament – which proved their downfall.

Kevin De Bruyne entered the tournament with a double facial fracture and ended it playing with a torn ligament, although he still presented the greatest danger for the Italians on Friday.

Captain Eden Hazard missed the game, as he has played most of Belgium’s matches in the past two years, and has also missed a lot. He had hamstring strain.

And then Romelu Lukaku, who is Belgium’s top scorer and one of the tournament players, wasted a seemingly unmissable opportunity at the far post in the second half when he slapped the ball obediently against Leonardo Spinazzola rather than in the net. If that had been the case, Belgium would have been tied and could have tipped the scales in their favor.

Angry and disappointed

“We had opportunities. After the break possession was still in their favor, but we were better. Yes, there will be angry and disappointed people, but the supporters will have seen that we wanted to give everything, ”said De Bruyne.

Martinez, whose contract with Qatar, faces tough decisions when the World Cup qualifiers resume in September. Will he continue with an aging squad for another year or is he looking to refresh himself immediately, ending the international careers of players like Dries Mertens, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen?

Exciting talents are emerging like midfielder Youri Tielemans and teenager Jeremy Doku, whose speed and dribbling against Italy has kept Belgium’s hopes of a retaliation alive, but the coach is likely to stay true.

“The feelings are sadness and disappointment because I don’t feel that these players should be excluded from this tournament. The players did everything to go as far as possible, ”added Martinez. – Reuters

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