Belgium is not known for being a footballing powerhouse. The small European nation were ranked 71st by FIFA back in 2007. They made it beyond the Round of 16 at the World Cup just once, getting to the semi-finals on 1986. They failed to qualify for Euro '04, '08, and '12. International success is not something the Belgian fans are used to.
Which is why the recent hype and disappointment around the Belgian side has been so heartbreaking to fans. They are currently ranked #1 by FIFA, and it isn't the first time in the last few years that they have held the top spot. Their squad is full of incredibly talented players that grace Europe's elite clubs. And yet they have fallen short.
At Euro '16 they were stunned by Wales in the quarter-finals after taking an early lead. At the 2018 World Cup they topped the group with ease and dispatched Japan and then Brazil before falling to France in the semi-final in a game they could have won.
Football Manager 19 allows you to take over the reins of Belgium and lead them into Euro 2020. Can you finally claim a trophy and take them even further in the 2022 World Cup? RealSport has everything you need to know about Belgium in FM19.
Expectations & Philosophies
There are no specific expectations from the Belgium board once you take over. The only competition on the schedule is the newly formed European International League which has replaced a few friendlies in the fixture list. The board do not consider this important so you can use it as a chance to experiment with your tactics and hand caps to some more interesting young players than established veterans that you already know about. Once the Euro 2020 qualifying draw is made you will be expected to get through to the tournament with ease. You can also expect the board to want a long and fruitful campaign in 2020.
Likewise, there are no philosophies the board want you to use. This frees you up to play the way you want to. However, forward-thinking, attractive, football is likely to keep the board on your side if you hit a rough spell.
Belgium's quality all across the field means you can basically play whatever tactic or formation you want. With terrific depth at centre back you can play a back three, or you can go heavy in the midfield and pick an opponent apart. Perhaps the best tactical style for a forward-thinking team in FM19 is the vertical tiki-taka. This has your team play the ball out of defence, work it into the box, and focuses play in the middle while encouraging your fullbacks forward.
With our tactical style set we need a formation that gets our best players on the field in their best positions. That looks to be the 4-1-4-1 DM Wide, which puts three in the midfield and gives some freedom to the front three to create chances.
In goal is Thibaut Courtois, with a back four of Thomas Meunier, the Spurs pair of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld in the middle and Jordan Lukaku at left back.
In the midfield Axel Witsel sits as the shield while Kevin De Bruyne and Mousa Dembele form the central midfield partnership. The front three is made up of Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku.
There isn't much need to change things up formation wise given the quality that Belgium have, but if you wanted to get some more forward thinking players on you could go for a 4-2-3-1 formation, and if you wanted to get Dries Mertens into his more natural spot up front then a 5-2-1-2 WB formation would give you a chance to get Yannick Carrasco on the field and push Kevin De Bruyne up field a bit more.
Which players are the best in your squad when you start as Belgium manager? Who can you rely on in big games?
Kevin De Bruyne, Man City - CA 4.5 star (186), PA 4.5 star (186)
Man City's star midfielder is Belgium's best player. He started his career in Genk before getting an early move to Chelsea. He was part of their mass sign-to-loan scheme and ended up at Wolfsburg, making a permanent move there after impressive first season and continued to play excellent football in Germany. In August 2015 he made a massive £55 million move to Man City and quickly becoming one of the deadliest midfielders in the world. In FM19 De Bruyne is a sensational player. With 19 vision, 19 passing, and 18 first touch he can unlock a defence in a flash, and with 16 finishing and 16 long shots can score himself. He is a player in his prime right now.
Eden Hazard, Chelsea - CA 4.5 star (180), PA 4.5 star (185)
Hot on De Bruyne's heels is Chelsea star Eden Hazard. The wide man has been an incredible find for Chelsea, coming over from Lille for £32 million in June 2012 and fast becoming one of the best attackers in recent Premier League history. His creativity had driven Chelsea to two Premier League titles, and an FA Cup, and a Europa League trophy. In FM19 Hazard is as dangerous on the ball as anyone. With 20 agility and 20 dribbling he can go past defenders in a heartbeat, and with 14 finishing he can find the back of the net himself if he has to.
Thibaut Courtois, Real Madrid - CA 4 star (165), PA 4.5 star (183)
Belgium's tall goalkeeper was another Chelsea find. The London club plucked him from Genk in 2011 for around £9 million and loaned him onto Atletico Madrid for seasoning. He returned to Chelsea in 2014 and quickly ousted long-term keeper Petr Cech. Courtois would develop into one of the best goalkeepers in the world. With his contract expiring Courtois was able to make a move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2018 for around £35 million. In FM 19 Courtois is a commanding keeper. With 18 aerial reach he is tough to get crosses in against and his 17 one on ones and 17 reflexes means he is an excellent shot-stopper too.
Which players could find their way into the squad for Euro 2020 and beyond? Who should you have in line to replace some of the aging stars?
Zinho Vanheusden, Standard Liege - CA 2 star (118), PA 4.5 star (140-170)
Zinho Vanheusden started his career with Standard Liege but made a move to Inter Milan in mid-2015. He loaned back to Standard in January 2018. Through that he has been smoothly progressing through Belgium's youth teams and looks ready to step in at centre back soon when the current generation hang up their boots. In FM19 Vanheusden's PA range of 140-170 means he could well be on the same level as Toby Alderweireld eventually, and with 14 heading, 14 composure, and 14 positioning already it may not take him that long.
Mile Svilar, SLB - CA 2 star (115), PA 4 star (140-170)
Mile Svilar started his career with Anderlecht but moved to Benfica at the age of 18 and has already picked up a few first team appearances for the Portuguese side. In FM19 Svilar is still 18 when you start, and already has solid stats. His 15 determination and 14 decisions are good for a keeper that is so young, and with 15 jumping and 14 reflexes he can deal with most things that are thrown at him. While Courtois has the #1 jersey locked up for a while to come, Svilar's 140-170 PA range could make him a quality option in goal for Belgium sooner rather than later.
Charly Musonda, Vitesse - CA 2 star (119), PA 3.5 star (130-160)
Charly Musonda started his career at Anderlecht, but moved to Chelsea in June 2012, signing a professional contract with the team in October 2013. He's been out on loan since 2016, spending time at Real Betis, Celtic, and now with Dutch side Vitesse. In FM19 Musonda has 17 agility and 15 acceleration to help carry him past defenders, while his 13 dribbling, 13 first touch, and 12 passing allow him to create chances anywhere in the attacking midfield. Those numbers aren't great compared to De Bruyne and Hazard, but in time Musonda could be a useful addition to the 2022 World Cup side and any team that has to play without De Bruyne and Hazard down the road.
|Thibaut Courtois||GK||26||Real Madrid||165/183||£49.5m|
|Koen Casteels||GK||26||VfL Wolfsburg||140/143||£8m|
|Thomas Meunier||D (R) WB (R) M (RC)||26||PSG||145/151||£15.75m|
|Timothy Castagne||D (R) WB (R) M (R) AM (R)||22||Atalanta||131/149||£5.75m|
|Toby Alderweireld||D (RC)||29||Tottenham||163/170||£50m|
|Jan Vertonghen||D (LC)||31||Tottenham||165/165||£47.5m|
|Vincent Kompany||D (C)||32||Man City||162/168||£53m|
|Thomas Vermaelen||D (C)||32||Barcelona||149/160||£10m|
|Derek Boyata||D (C)||27||Celtic||135/145||£8m|
|Jordan Lukaku||D (L) WB (L) M (L)||23||Lazio||137/149||£9.5m|
|Leander Dendoncker||D (C) DM M (C)||23||Wolves||135/150||£9.75m|
|Axel Witsel||DM M (C)||29||Borussia Dortmund||159/170||£35m|
|Mousa Dembele||DM M (C)||30||Guangzhou Fuli||145/155||£30.5m|
|Youri Tielemans||M (C) AM (C)||21||Leicester||139/167||£9.25m|
|Kevin De Bruyne||M (RLC) AM (C)||27||Man City||186/186||£80m|
|Eden Hazard||AM (RLC)||27||Chelsea||180/185||£80m|
|Yannick Carrasco||M (L) AM (RL)||24||Dalian Yifang||151/164||£35m|
|Thorgan Hazard||M (RL) AM (RLC) ST (C)||25||Borussia M'Gladbach||147/148||£22m|
|Adnan Januzaj||M (RL) AM (RL)||23||Real San Sebastian||147/155||£11.25m|
|Dries Mertens||AM (RL) ST (C)||31||Napoli||161/167||£48m|
|Michy Batshuayi||ST (C)||24||Crystal Palace||145/160||£26.5m|
|Romelu Lukaku||ST (C)||25||Man United||155/168||£42.5m|
Welcome To The Big Time
Belgium have threatened to enter the elite club of major tournament winners for some time now, and Euro 2020 is perhaps the last chance for this group of players to lift a trophy in their national shirt. The likes of Vincent Kompany and Dries Mertens are unlikely to see the next World Cup. While there is talent coming through to potentially replace them, these are the players that put Belgium on the footballing map and for them to not taste victory would be a bitter pill.
With the expanded field and bigger travel schedule of Euro 2020 the depth and experience of the squad will become a big positive, however Belgium's lack of quality at full back is a problem that has haunted them in the past and could be an achilles heel for years to come. If you can avoid any upsets then Belgium should be getting to the semi-final of Euro 2020 with ease. The job then is to find a way through the old guard of European sides and break into the big time.