My Greatest Belgium XI - The Belgian Football Podcast
This Belgian XI selection was compiled by the team at The Belgian Football Podcast - the No.1 English-language podcast dedicated to covering the world of Belgian football, past and present.
The BFP produce a weekly show covering all the latest news across the Belgian football landscape and also produce extra specials during the season which welcome guests from inside the world of Belgian football.
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The Starting XI (3-5-2)
GK: Thibaut Courtois
Belgium has produced many world class keepers over the years and this was a particularly difficult position to choose. In the end we went for current No.1 Thibaut Courtois, who is particularly highly regarded inside Belgium. The youngest ever GK to play for the Red Devils, when he debuted in 2011, his rise has been extraordinary. In many respects he is the ‘complete goalkeeper’ with few weaknesses in his game.
RB: Eric Gerets
At his peak Eric Gerets was considered generally as one of the top Right Backs in European football. Today he is still rightly regarded as one of the greatest players in Belgian football history. He also captained PSV Eindhoven to their one and only European Cup Win in 1988. Notably he is one of only 6 coaches, along with Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Giovanni Trapattoni, Tomislav Ivic and Ernst Happel, to have won domestic league championships in at least 4 separate countries. He played at 4 major tournaments with The Red Devils, including being part of the Belgium side that lost the Euro 1980 final v West Germany. He amassed 86 caps.
LB: Armand Swartenbroeks
A left back who many will not know... Swartenbroecks achieved 53 caps for The Red Devils between 1913 and 1928, 37 of which he was Captain. He stands out for 2 reasons, the number of caps during his career, which is extraordinary for this period in international football and he also was part of the side that won the Olympic Gold Football Title with The Red Devils at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics just after WWI. Swartenbroecks was a medical doctor by trade and was also very active in politics serving as a local mayor in Brussels during his playing career.
CB: Vincent Kompany
The standing and regard that Vincent Kompany holds within the game is almost second to none, even today now that he has moved onto coaching. He made his international debut aged just 17 in Feb 2004 v France. During his international career he amassed 89 caps over a 15yr period Intelligent, physically strong, mobile in the air and possessing outstanding leadership qualities make him a clear stand out choice for this position.
LM: Eden Hazard
A mercurial and scintillating talent. Hazard is one of very few players to have achieved over 100 caps for The Red Devils. Hazard was also only 17 yrs when he made his senior debut for the National team. Possessing great pace and wonderful technical ability, Hazard has proved indispensible to the National Team over a long period. His influence and personality leading to him becoming captain in 2015.
CM: Wilfried Van Moer
Known as Kleine Generaal (the Little General) due to his diminutive stature, Van Moer is unquestionably one of the finest Belgian players of all time. Van Moer won 3 Golden Shoes during his career *(awarded to each seasons finest player in Belgium) in 1966, 1969 and 1970. He was part of the Red Devils side defeated in the final of Euro 1980 v West Germany. He makes the selection because of his personality and playing style, quite simply the Red Devils were often not the same side without Van Moer, ‘driving’ them on, his wider influence was far greater than the sum of his parts. He even recovered from a leg break to have a 2nd highly successful spell with the national team, when many thought his international career was over.
CM: Enzo Scifo
In many regards a footballing prodigy and a classic no10. Technically he is rightly considered to be one of Belgium's finest ever footballers. Possessing technical skill and an ability to read the game that many can only dream of, Scifo’s beauty as a footballer will be long remembered by those who witnessed it. Over a 14 yr period with the Red evils he amassed 84 caps, scoring 18 goals. Many of his greatest performances were reserved for international duty.
AM: Kevin De Bruyne
Currently regarded as one of the best players in the world and certainly of his generation. His versatility positionally makes his indispensable to his country and to the clubs he has played for. A complete playmaker, who displays a sublime footballing intelligence, he simply could not have missed out on this selection.
RM: Jan Ceulemans
Remembered as a prolific goalscorer, Ceulemans amassed 96 caps and scored 23 goals over a 14 yr international career. He possessed physical power, technique and natural authority. He also had a long a successful club career in Belgian football and famously changed his mind about a move to AC Milan at the very last minute after the move was agreed. Pele considered him to be one of the greatest footballers he had ever seen in a 2004 interview!
CF: Romelu Lukaku
Big Rom is Belgium’s all time leading goal scorer and one of only 6 players to have amassed more than 100 caps for his country. A world class modern striker, possessing pace and power that few can cope with. To date he has scored 68 goals in 102 appearances for the Red Devils.
CF: Paul Van Himst
Nicknamed Polle Gazon (meaning in english "Paul Lawn", it is a humorous reference to how often Paul Van Himst was fouled by the opposition). His club and international career is simply remarkable, even today, many outside Belgian are not aware still of Van Himst’s outstanding career and achievements on the footballing stage. His international career with The Red Devils spans 14yrs with 81 caps and 30 goals. He also coached the national team briefly, leading them at the 1994 World Cup. During his club career he won 8 Belgian championship titles, all of them with his beloved Anderlecht. At Anderlecht he scored 233 goals in 457 appearances across 16 seasons with the Brussels club. He also holds the record of most Belgian Golden Show Awards, having received the accolade 4 times! In 2003 he was named Golden Player by the Belgian FA as the most outstanding player of the last 50 yrs in Belgian football. He also appeared in the famous football film, ‘Escape to Victory’ in 1981. Remarkably in his testimonial match in 1975, he would play alongside, Pele, Eusebio, Jairzinho and Cruyff, such was the esteem with which he was regarded!
GK: Michel Preud Homme
Having an outstanding club and international career are feats that not many achieve. Preud Homme is regarded by many (us included) to be one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, famed for his agility and handling. Over a 15 yr international career, he amassed 58 caps. He also had a highly notable club career, as player and coach winning domestic titles and the Cup Winners Cup with Mechelen in 1989.
DF: Daniel Van Buyten
Over a 14 yr international career Van Buyten made 83 appearances for his country, scoring 10 goals. A Powerful and decisive central defender Van Buyten became a reliable and quality defender over a long period.. During his club career he won domestic league and cup titles and the Champions League in 2013, with Bayern Munich, alongside the Intertoto Cup in 2005 with Hamburg.
MF: Franky Van Der Elst
Van Der Elst spent his entire playing career in Belgium, playing for Molenbeek, and principally Club Brugge. His international career spans 14 yrs and 86 caps, he represented his country at 4 World Cups, before a coaching career entirely in Belgium taking in 8 clubs!
LW: Franky Vercauteren
Nicknamed The Little Prince Vercauteren’s international career spans 11yrs and 63 caps. He was part of the squad that reached the Semi Final of the 1986 World Cup. He had an outstanding playing career, winning numerous major european honours with Anderlecht, including 2 Cup Winners Cups in 1976 and 1978 and a UEFA Cup in 1983. He also won the Belgian Golden Shoe in 1983 and earned a Ballon d’Or nomination in the same year.
FW: Erwin Vandenbergh
As a striker Vandenbergh’s international career spans 12yrs. He amassed 48 caps scoring 20 goals. Also winning european and domestic honours with Anderlecht, he was part of the squad that finished as runners up at the 1980 European Championship.
Despite not being the greatest tactical innovator, Thys’s man management and motivational skills, and media relations are second to none. He managed The Red Devils for 13yrs between 1976 and 1989, returning again for a brief spell in 1990 - 1991 to lead the side at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. He managed his country for 101 games, winning 45 of them. Under his leadership Belgium computed in 2 European Championships and at 3 World cups. Perhaps he will be remembered mostly for leading The Red Devils to the final of the 1980 European Championship in Italy, in which they narrowly lost in the final to West Germany, making Thys the coach who has come closest to winning a major trophy with Belgium.