Wallonia has been in the news recently. Its regional government voted against the EU-wide trade deal with Canada, prompting comments of “this obscure place” from UK Tory politicians. (ED: more people live in Wallonia than in Wales.) But Belgium politics is not that simple – there are seven regions and communities that would have to agree to the aforementioned trade deal. I believe three have objected so far.
But let’s get back to the issue on the table – within Belgium, there are three powerful bodies: the Brussels region, Flanders and Wallonia. And how would it look if, rather like the UK, all could field teams in the World Cup and the Euros.
It would mean two extra coaching jobs for starters and at first glance, Flanders would be the team to manage if you were given the choice. Roughly 80% of teams in the Belgian first division are from Flanders and that should give that region an advantage.
Let’s take Flanders first. The headline players are Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Radja Nainggolan, Kevin De Bruyne and, perhaps surprisingly, Romelu Lukaku. The big striker gets in the Flemish squad as he was born in Antwerp. That’s a city seriously neglected in Belgian football these days but which has provided half a dozen players in the Flemish squad with links to Germinal Beerschot.
Here’s my team. I’ve put the Spurs duo back at full back as I couldn’t find a way of going ‘three at the back’. I was going to put in Udinese’s Sven Kums but went for the greater international experience of Mousa Dembélé. It’s a useful team and a great bench.
Courtois; Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Lombaerts, Vertonghen; Nainggolan, Dembélé, De Bruyne; Mertens, R. Lukaku, Origi.
Bench: Mignolet, Sels, J. Lukaku, Mingue (Inter), Tielemans, Dendoncker, Defour, Kums
It may surprise some to see that the Brussels Region is a separate entity. But that’s the way it is. I thought I would struggle to field a decent Brussels team but it’s possible. Brussels has always been a hot-bed of football with half a dozen decent teams a few decades ago. Nowadays, it’s Anderlecht carrying the flag but at that club, there is a serious lack of Belgians, never mind Bruxellois.
The stand-out player from Brussels is Vincent Kompany but he’s joined by Michy Batshuayi, Yannick Carrasco, Marouane Fellaini – who hails from Etterbeek, my stamping ground – and one Charly Musonda. I had trouble finding a keeper but eventually alighted on Urdo Pardo, now at APOEL. There’s also room for Batshuayi’s brother Aaron Leya Iseka (on loan at Marseille from Anderlecht). The bench is a tad weak.
Here’s the team (3-3-2-2):
Pardo; Vanden Borre, Kompany, Denayer; Kawaya (Anderlecht), Fellaini, Carrasco; Musonda, N. Kabasele; Batshuayi, Leya Iseka.
Which just leaves Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium? (Ed: Brussels is primarily French-speaking but is geographically with Flanders.) But is there anyone left I hear you say. Well yes, especially via the Liege connection. Don’t forget that gives us Axel Witsel, Kevin Mirallas, Christian Benteke and Nacer Chadli. And of course there are the brothers Hazard (from La Louviere).
I’d problems with a somewhat attack-minded bench but, anyway, here are the boys I’ve chosen (3-3-3-1):
J-F Gillet; Meunier, Ciman, G. Gillet (Nantes); Witsel, Cissé (Standard), T. Hazard; Mirallas, E. Hazard, Chadli; Benteke
Bench: Proto, Bakkali (Valencia), Bruno (Anderlecht), Lestienne (Rubin Kazan), Depoitre, Bongonda (Celta de Vigo)
Overall, the Wallonia team is better than expected but they’d probably lose by a couple of goals to Flanders. Brussels region would be good to watch, especially if Musonda was on a good day. Three reasonable squads though. Comments welcome.