Belgium boast premier class

Eden Hazard (Center) heads to the World Cup having been named PFA Young Player of the Year

Led by Marc Wilmots, their leading World Cup goalscorer, many believe they are well equipped to eclipse the achievements of the Red Devils' "Golden Generation" that reached the semi-finals of the 1986 World Cup.

Wilmots certainly has the talent available to him to rival the likes of Jean-Marie Pfaff, Jan Ceulemans and Enzo Scifo - and, after an impressive eight wins in 10 matches during their qualifying campaign, it is easy to see why the current squad are being touted as modern-day counterparts to some of those aforementioned greats.

The majority of Belgium's squad currently operate in the English Premier League, with 12 of the 22 players used in qualification starring in the division last season.

Among those are Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, Manchester City and Belgium captain Vincent Kompany, Chelsea duo Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, plus Everton's Kevin Mirallas, although Aston Villa's Christian Benteke is ruled out by injury.

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Playmaker Hazard's stock at Stamford Bridge rose further last term with a string of impressive performances.

Chelsea's £32 million man has been striking fear into the hearts of Premier League defences since the Blues captured him from Lille in June 2012.

The diminutive midfielder was on target for the Blues in both their 6-0 and 4-0 demolitions of local rivals Arsenal and Tottenham respectively and was named as the PFA's Young Player of the Year.

He has now become the focal point of Jose Mourinho's Chelsea attack, following the departure of Juan Mata to Manchester United.

Mega-rich French side Paris St Germain have made no secret of their desire to lure him from Stamford Bridge this summer, but he insists he is putting club concerns to one side.

"I focus on the World Cup, which is much more important than what is said in the papers," he said. "If you got to know me you'd know I'm not someone who is disturbed by it.

"Every year they say I'm moving. It's part of the job."

Lukaku, who was loaned to West Brom by Chelsea in the 2012/13 season, thrived again away from his parent club, joining Everton for the last campaign and scoring 18 times.

He was on target twice against Croatia as Belgium recorded a 2-1 win to secure their place in Brazil, and hit a hat-trick in the 5-1 demolition of Luxembourg during a pre-tournament friendly.

"It was a good performance," said Lukaku.

"What makes me happy is that we performed as a team."

The match also marked the debut of Adnan Januzaj, who impressed after breaking into the Manchester United first-team last season.

The youngster was warned by Wilmots that he is not guaranteed a starting place, but Januzaj felt he had done enough to merit inclusion.

"I am happy with my debut," he said.

"I wasn't under much pressure. I'mused to playing in front of 75 ,000 at Manchester United.

"It's my job to play one touch, to dribble, to entertain the crowd a bit."

As well as boasting an impressive attack, the Red Devils conceded just four goals during qualification-the best record in the group.

Captain Kompany will demonstrate the leadership skills that have made him such a key player at Manchester City, while Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelen have had a solid season with Tottenham and arsenal respectively.

The stage appears set for the new generation to take the world by storm.

It would be fitting if they achieve international success while led by Wilmots, having been one of the reasons for so many of their celebrations during the past 25 years.

Wilmots, Belgium's leading World Cup goalscorer, netted 28 times for his country in 70 appearances.

The 45-year-old also featured for the likes of Standard Liege and Bordeaux at club level before starting his managerial career with German outfit Schalke, another of his former clubs.

This article was published on June 10 in The New Paper.

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