Belgium’s World Cup qualifying game that ended Friday night was a cause for cheers.
Like a steady roller coaster, it passed through enough peaks, plunges and bends to keep anxious fans engrossed in the country’s campaign from the start. It was classic Thunderbolt, but even the rides for the Diables Rouges will eventually come to a stop.
Having qualified for the World Cup eleven times since the conception of the tournament in 1930’s, and having finished fourth in Mexico 1986, it is of no surprise to see a team which boasts of experience at that level, make it to the Finals in 2014. The only difference this time around is that, they have a team of stars who play an important role, day in and day out, for their respective clubs. Financially, they might not be raking in the big bucks but yet are indispensible members of the club’s squad.
With top names covering all the positions on the field, names such as Courtois, Mignolet, Van Buyten, Vertonghen, Gillet, Vermaelen, Witsel, Hazard, De Bruyne, Fellaini, Defour, Lukaku and Mirallas, a fan of the national team or a neutral would be astonished if they did not make it through, not only to the tournament itself, but to the knock-out rounds. And I have not even included the likes of Kompany and Benteke, both of whom are injured.
Who could hang their heads over this squad, right?
Not to burst the bubble created by Belgium’s recent success, what lies ahead, keeping the recent history of the tournament in mind is observable. Eventually, a team like Spain, France, Italy or Brazil would walk away with the prized trophy. Not because of the splendid run that they would have throughout the campaign but purely on the basis of understanding what needs to be done. They could basically be non-existent for the entire game but would show up in the 90th minute to tap in that crucial game winner. Derived from a simple defensive error or a solo moment of brilliance. Somewhat like Manchester United with their ability to win games, even after a lackluster effort, under the Ferguson era at least.
Even if a team like Belgium would reach the final four, the excitement of just being there would result in their very demise at that stage. Look at the case of Cameroon at the 1990 World Cup, the team had taken a well deserved lead against the English and rest assured looked like the first African team that would make its way to the final four. But after several missed opportunities on an open goal, literally in one situation, and the inability to maintain the momentum for the entire 90 minutes saw them loose that opportunity. And we saw something similar in the case of Sweden, Croatia, Turkey, South Korea and Portugal subsequently.
However, at this very moment, Belgium has made it to Brazil after an absence in the two preceding World Cups, and that in itself is an achievement to celebrate.
As for the fans, it’s better to bask in the country’s current success. It is still better to remember the rush than to have not had one at all.