1. Belgium has a young squad and a young team. Even with Timmy Simons starting the match in Azerbaijan, the average age of the team was 23. That shows a lack of experience.
2. No settled defence: in the eight qualifying games, the same back four has only started in two matches (the first two, both defeats). Jan Vertonghen has played in seven games and in three different positions (midfield, central defence and left back).
3. There is a dearth of top-class full backs in Belgium as opposed to central defence where there is an abundance of quality and experienced performers: Kompany, Vertonghen, Vermaelen, Lombaerts, Van Buyten. Furthermore, Toby Alderweireld often used at right back plays centrally for Ajax. Central defenders have played in both full back positions in seven of the eight games (Anderlecht’s Oliver Deschacht played in Kazakhstan).
4. Perhaps due to a lack of experience and players being selected out of position, Belgium have often conceded crucial goals late in the game. (Turkey (a) 78th minute; Austria (h) 93rd, Azerbaijan (a) 86th minute.
5. Since the beginning of the year, many players in the squad have been thinking of lucrative transfers away from the Jupiler League: Lukaku, Vossen, Ogunjimi, Witsel and Defour to name but five.
6. Leekens has often failed to make substitutions when they could have freshened up the team. The recent game in Azerbaijan was a case in point. The majority of his changes have been made after the 75th minute.
7. Injuries and suspensions have upset squad selections: during qualifying, Leekens has had to do without Defour, Fellaini and Vermaelen due to long-term injuries.
8. Leekens relationship with Eden Hazard has often taken the spotlight away from the team and has caused criticism of the coach (and player) when it was least needed.
9. Leekens has frequently played with a lone striker (in a 4-3-3 formation), one of Lukaku, Vossen or Ogunjimi. Evidence shows, though, that Lukaku (still a teenager) never looked comfortable in this role for Anderlecht, while Vossen and Ogunjimi usually play in tandem at Genk. In the two matches when Leekens opted to start with two strikers, Belgium scored a total of six goals (admittedly conceding five).
10. The current squad has frequently been referred to as the “Golden Generation”, despite the fact that they have won nothing and never qualified for a tournament. Some players have undoubtedly believed the hype. With an average age of 23, that should not come as a great surprise.
I stand by my original ideas – i think that a switch Fellaini – Vossen (and not De Camargo, as he is too similar to Lukaku) would have opened up things in the match. Lukaku was man-marked all the time, with the second centre-back sweeping up when somebody got through (hence the many last-ditch tackles, mainly in the first half).
If Leekens had dared to switch more and earlier (given the match fitness of some and the state of the pitch, not unwelcome), i think he could prevented the draw. If Leekens has one flaw as coach (besides his love for the long ball), it's this.
Leekens has to go. It's his responsibility to keep the team focused for the full 90 minutes, which once again they didn't do. Did not understand why he brought in DeCamargo. Leekens out and Gerets in.
Let's be honest here, the one and only reason Belgium isn't going to the Euro Cup is the lack of goal scoring in the latter half of the campaign. Since the Austria match at home, they haven't conceded more than one goal a game. The defence has been relatively solid.
I've been thinking about a formation that could work as an effective counter to the 4-2-3-1 systems that most teams employ nowadays. It's essentially a 4-1-3-2. Insert Vermaelen in at the right centre-back position, and move Kompany to the defensive stopper post (so he can mark the dangerous central attacking midfielders, but also join in the attack without Belgium being caught out on the counter). The two fowards should be Vossen and Ogunjimi (or Lukaku). Then put Witsel or Fellaini behind them. The two attacking outside players should be Legear or Dembele on the right, and Hazard, Chadli or Mertens on the left.
Tactically I'd like to see a change as well. Whereas Belgium begins every game by pressing opponents in their own half, why not drop back a bit, allowing the opponent to come forward until the ball reaches half. Once it does, that's when hard pressing should occur. This will keep the team compact, and draw out opponents forward, leaving them open to the counter. It's essentially the system that Laszlo Boloni used so effectively against Liverpool with Standard a few years back. It does require good overlapping fullbacks (maybe Tshimanga). Sorry for the rant.
1.A couple of years ago, the journalists that question the validity of 'lack of experience' today, were questioning the talent of the players themselves. The talent of Kompany, Witsel, Fellaini, Hazard, Defour, De Bruyne, is now not longer questioned. But put them together, and yes, of course they still lack experience.
2. The centre backs should be Kompany-Lombaerts. These are the two players that don't disappoint and that are well established in their own teams. This is a choice that should have been made some time ago.
3. Pocognoli seems to be the right man for the left back position. Technically strong and always playing at that position with Standard. Central backs that can take on the position are Vermaelen and Lombaerts, not Vertonghen. Van Damme could be an option if he plays on the wing or left back for Standard. Deschacht should not be selected.
On the right, we can defend the choice for Alderweireld. Here there is really a lack of options. Strange enough, Vandenborre has disappeared completely from the radar. Great talent, but very unfortunate that he (or that his coach doesn't make him) is not focussed on that right back position. Has everything to be outstanding there.
6. 8. 9. Leekens' coaching has been very disappointing. He continues to praise himself for winning the support of the 'public', but that doesn't qualify you for a tournament. With this generation of talents, Belgians were anyhow always going to get interested in the Red Devils. The situation with Hazard was really one big joke. He calls his choice for 1 striker and two wings 'very attacking', but it looks more like a bad compromise. With better coaching, the matches against Austria at home and Azerbaijan could have been won. The match against Turkey at home as well. Away against Austria, Belgium didn't create any chances but was lucky with the great finishing of Witsel after two mistakes of the Austrians. Hazard and Mertens obviously shouldn't be playing together. Hazard in a rather free role behind two strikers. Here is what Belgium also misses: a quality second striker. Vossen scores easily however and would therefore be a logical choice.
– With all due respect for Timmy Simons, but is there really somebody who believes that he is still necessary for 'the balance' in the team? The successful Standard triangle Defour-Witsel-Fellaini seems to me the choice that needs to be made. Admittedly, only Witsel has been without injuries and consistent in the last year. A new name to be added is the one of Vadis Odjidja, who can play everywhere in central midfield and thus replace any of the three.
– Kevin De Bruyne is so talented that soon one cannot overlook him any longer. Against Turkey, Leekens started with the tired Chadli and never very efficient Dembele on the wings. De Bruyne was the best man in the play offs, and very fit as he only played half a season. How to fit him in, in a system with two strikers is a more difficult question however.
Is it just me, or is the overal tone of this page rather negative. Despite the obvious shortcomings of our squad, it isn't all bad, far from it. The boys haven't lost for a year, and there are (besides Hazard) no longer any incidents. The group seems strong, confident and most of all close. One can question his tactical decisions (as you all have) but his people management skills prove their worth where-ever Leekens coaches. One shouldn't loose faith so easily in a man, under whose leadership we can still qualify (though we probably won't).
The lack of experience is a fact, and it has cost us plenty, but with a little more luck (Van Buyten's fault against Germany, Witsel's missed penalty kick against Turkey, the Turks deviated free-kick-goal in the 97th minute against Azerbeidjan, etc) we would have been second in our group, and everyone would be singing Leekens' praise.
Neither Anthuenis nor Vandereycken, Vercauteren or Advocaat did a better job, and those aren't amateurs. No one since Robert 'lijk een konijn op de plein' Waseige has done better, and we can once again see something on the pitch that resembles the Wilmots head-first attitude that used to be our trademark.
Finally, anyone who claims Mertens and Hazard shouldn't be playing together obviously hasn't seen Belgium-USA. Whenever they combined our game accelerated greatly, causing havok among the American defenders. As long as Dries Mertens continues to fulfill his defending duties as he did in that friendly match they are more than compatible, they might even be exactly what we need to score more goals.
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