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Posts Tagged ‘ Marc Wilmots ’

World Cup 2014: The Dark Horses

worldcup2014

Yesterday, we had a good look at the four teams most likely to win the upcoming World Cup. What we have yet to touch on is one of the most lively debates before any international tournament. Who will be the team who emerges from nowhere to thrill the crowds and cause a few upsets along the way? Is there a team from lower down the international pecking order who can surprise us all and go all the way? Usually there is at least one team who overachieves in these competitions, and calling them right is often the difference between winning and losing the fantasy football wars, so here we will look at four teams who could potentially go from dark horses to World Cup champions in the space of a few weeks in June. Continue reading

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Belgians Show Ireland That Success Starts At Home

European football is currently witnessing a revolution, one that has been simmering under the limelight for the past few seasons but is now fully realising its potential.

The football world has become synonymous with names like Dembele, Hazard and Verthongen, the backbone of a blossoming Belgium side that many are tipping for future success. Belgium, like Ireland, has never exactly been a football haven. There national side has enjoyed more success than Ireland in terms of qualifying for events but still it’s nothing worth bragging about. At club level its pretty much a similar story as Belgian teams have had limited success on the European front. Where it not for Anderlecht and Standard Liege then this revolution may not have been possible.

To the aforementioned trio add the names of Kompany, Vermaelen, Defour, Witsel, Fellaini and Lukaku, all household names on the European stage and it’s not hard to see why this team managed by Belgian hero Marc Wilmots looks set to shine. Throw rising stars in there such as Mirallas, Alderweireld and De Bruyne and one begins to instantly wonder how this team never made it to Euro 2012. Perhaps the Euros came too soon but Belgium were quite unlucky finishing two points off a playoff spot in what was a tough qualification group featuring a German side who won ten out of ten and a Turkish outfit  who narrowly pipped Belgium to second place.

The new golden generation of Belgium looks set to outshine its predecessors, who reached six successive World Cup’s between 1982-2002, which included a  4th place finish in 1986. They even finished as runners up at Euro 1980. Wilmots side have enjoyed a solid start to qualifying for Brazil 2014 grinding out a 2-0 win over Wales and a 1-1 draw with Croatia which is no mean feat, Irish fans would certainly agree.

But for all the prospects and potential this Belgian team has one wonders how Ireland cannot produce such a model for success giving we are country of a similar nature. Yes the Belgian population is double that of Ireland but in reality what does population matter if one has correct infrastructure?

The Belgian FA have incorporated a model for success, they are willing to do everything possible to provide themselves with success. The vision of Belgian football is quickly changing thanks in large part to the motivational factor whereby such a small country takes pride from punching well above their weight. Ireland have a similar outlook yet finances dictate success. Nonetheless the quality of the current Belgium team compared to Ireland is astounding as any of the Belgian players would walk into the Irish set up.

In recent years we have witnessed a reversal of our fortunes. The old guard of Given and Duff have retired while Dunne and Keane are on their last leg. Our input into European competition and the Premier League has steadily declined year after year. After all, how many Irish players will feature in this year’s Champions League?

Contrast this steady decline with the fortunes of the respective clubs in Belgium and Ireland. This season sees Anderlecht make a welcomed return to the Champions League group stages, a feat the 31 time Belgian champions last enjoyed in the 2006/07 season. The Belgian champions boast ten Belgians in their squad. Combine this ten with the current Belgian stars at other Champions League clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Zenit and it’s not hard to see the Belgians mean business. Meanwhile, Aiden McGeady holds his head high as Ireland’s sole Champions League representative and League of Ireland clubs remain light-years’ away from reaching Europe’s premier club competition.

Of course we can talk with a bit more excitement when it comes to the Europa League. After all Shamrock Rovers did enjoy success qualifying for the group stages last year. However this historic feat was quickly forgotten as the Hoops failed to earn a single point and bowed out of the competition. How long will we wait for another Irish club to break such ground, something the Belgian sides do year upon year with relative ease.

The old adage that success starts at home is universally true. This rising Belgian outfit would be nothing where it not for the backing it’s football association affords its national league. Contrast this with Ireland and the ever lacking FAI involvement in the League of Ireland and it’s not hard to see why we are struggling at both international and club level. Indeed it says something about the difference between the LOI and the Pro League when you consider the numerous Irish stars who had to move abroad in recent years to get a sniff at pulling on the green jersey.

So while Wilmots leads this golden generation onto bigger and better things Irish fans can only wonder what might have been if the FAI had a similar dedication to that of their Belgian counterparts. The longer the FAI are devoid of hope and enthusiasm the longer Irish football as a whole will suffer.

 

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