(Doha) a magical phenomenon? golden generations.
Two of them will face each other on Wednesday in Doha. That from Canada, led by Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, started its course. That’s Belgium, represented by Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard, finishing his run.
How do we explain that so many talents of the same age, in a nation, are hatching at the same time? Is there a magic formula or just a stroke of luck?
I asked the opinion of two distinguished witnesses on the rise of the Belgians. The first, Laurent Seaman, assistant coach of the Montreal club, tested it from the inside. He was a member of this golden generation in the national team. The second, Patrick Stein, is a journalist. He began his career at the same time as the rise of the Belgians, and documented it in a series of books.
Know first that the Belgians have not always been among the best footballers in the world. Away from this. Most of the time, they ended up in the middle. Able to cause surprise, but not much.
“When I was a kid, Laurent Seaman recalls, there was no attraction to the national team. Besides, I never went to watch a match. I didn’t watch it much on TV either. I preferred to watch the Champions League with my parents or enjoy being outside with my friends.”
In 2007, at the European Under-21 Championship, the tectonic plates started to move. Belgium achieved the best result in their history, reaching the semi-finals. Laurent Seaman was part of the formation. We were a group of friends. We are all right. This is where it all collapsed. The following year, the same group—bolstered by a few veterans—traveled to the Beijing Olympics. He defeated the Italians and finished fourth.
“I think there was a little bit of luck,” he said. Several players popped up at the same time. Pushing those other players who, like me, didn’t have that level right away, to increase the quality of our game. This simulation created the golden generation. »
Patrick Stein, is trying out two more hypotheses.
The first is the official version of the leaders of the Belgian Confederation. “After, after [l’élimination hâtive] Euro 2000 was organized in Belgium, and there was awareness. We looked at France, which was seeing success. We worked on training, which was almost non-existent with us. In the following years, Belgium increased the slider, allowing talented players to appear. »
It’s interesting, because the United States recently made the same observation. Hence the establishment of the MLS club academies, which Canada benefited greatly from. Seven players from our national team have gone through MLS Academy clubs. This is particularly the case of the great star of the formation, Alphonso Davies.
The second hypothesis of Patrick Stein?
It’s the other way around. “The planets just lined up. Players hatch by chance. Generational talents emerge, with very different training paths. Kevin De Bruyne trained in Belgium, but not Eden Hazard, who went to Lille, France. Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld trained in the Netherlands. Belgium is lucky to have Surrounded by countries that preceded it in terms of training, it was helped by the fact that it was a crossroads for Europe.”
Again, there are similarities with the Canadian national team. Many of our representatives have been trained elsewhere. Stephen Eustachio, Portugal. David Witherspoon, Scotland. Junior Howlett, William Miller and Ike Ogbu from England. Samuel Peet grew up in the northern suburbs of Montreal, but spent his teenage years in France and Germany. Several players from the Toronto area (Alistair Johnston, Kamal Miller, Tajoon Buchanan) have gone on to perfect their game in American universities.
One of the characteristics of the golden generations is the abundance of talent.
At this level, at its peak, Belgium fared better than Canada. It has benefited not one, but two great waves of talent. First, the Laurent Seaman story, with Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen and Dries Mertens, all born between 1984 and 1987. Then Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois and Yannick Carrasco, born between 1991 and 1993.
“Many players with character arrived at the same time, Laurent Seaman recalls. Take Kevin De Bruyne. He wasn’t happy to be on the bench. They told him he was young. He replied: Young or not young, if you’re the best, I have to play “It was a change from the old way of thinking. Coach Marc Wilmots also did a great job of bringing the players together. It was his first quality. There is no more separation between the Flemish players.” [néerlandophones] Wallon [francophones]. »
The Red Devils reached the first place in the FIFA World Rankings, the quarter-finals in the 2014 World Cup, as well as the semi-finals in 2018. Very good results, for a country with a population of 11 million. But in public opinion as well as in that of the players, there is a sense of unfinished business, Laurent Syman agrees.
“We were so close to winning,” he tells me, bringing his thumb and forefinger together. “We were among the favourites. I think we could have won. There were disappointments. After that we lost to big teams who had experience in big tournaments. It’s easy to say: These are just excuses. Other than that it’s true. In terms of small details, Italy “They are used to it. Argentina knows how to make a difference. We didn’t know how to do it.”
The golden generation of Belgians is coming to an end. This World Cup, in Qatar, is his last chance to win the major title he has been missing out on. However, no one really believes in it. Supporters, disappointed with recent results, have lowered their expectations.
“Inside, a wind of pessimism subsided,” explains Patrick Stein. There are no more crazy dreams. Rather, it is the fear of the catastrophe of not passing the first round that prevails. The most optimistic is to think about the quarter-finals or semi-finals. The most optimistic of the most optimistic people tell themselves that from there, anything is possible. But nobody in Belgium says we have the best team in the world. »
Canada – Belgium, Wednesday at 2pm (RDS)
Laurent Seaman on…
“He’s the most realistic player I’ve seen. He’s very humble. He puts people at ease immediately. If he worked a little more physically, like Cristiano Ronaldo, he would be a genius.”
Kevin De Bruyne
“He is a reserved man, a little introverted, and knows where he wants to go. He does everything to make it happen.”
Captain. He loves to talk. When I was with him in Liege, in Anderlecht, we respected each other a lot. We are close. We talked after he moved to Inter. Romelu’s problem is that he changes his phone every week! [rires] »
“He’s the mover in the middle of the field. He’s the one who organizes the reality of playing with super attacking players. He’s always in a good position to win the ball back. You don’t see it often, but he puts [ses coéquipiers] the value. »
“Evil thinker. Music scholar. Hipster-friendly communicator. Bacon geek. Amateur internet enthusiast. Introvert.”