Is Belgium too old to win World Cup? Loss to Morocco raises eyebrows

Kevin De Bruyne gave an eye-opening interview to The Guardian this week, in which he suggested that his Belgium side — currently ranked second in FIFA’s world rankings — has “no chance” of wining the World Cup.

“No chance, we’re too old,” De Bruyne said. “I think our chance was 2018. We have a good team, but it is aging. We lost some key players. We have some good new players coming, but they are not at the level other players were in 2018. I see us more as outsiders.”

Was De Bruyne simply trying to take the pressure off his team? Put some of the attention onto himself and away from his teammates?

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After Belgium’s first two World Cup games, another possibility emerges: He was just being honest.

After laboring to a 1-0 win over Canada in its opener, Belgium was comprehensively beaten 2-0 by Morocco on Sunday in its second match.

Abdelhamid Sabiri gave Morocco the lead in the second half with a whipped-in free kick that bypassed everyone, including a screened Thibaut Courtois. Zakaria Aboukhlal added a second in stoppage time to put the gloss on Morocco’s third win at a World Cup.

This crop of Belgium players has been referred to as a “Golden Generation” for years and it has accomplished some big things for a country that has a population of about 12 million.

Notably, the Red Devils finished third at the 2018 World Cup. The problem for Roberto Martinez’s side, though, is that most of those players form the core of this team.

Seven of the 11 players Belgium started against Morocco were 30 or older, with two of them 29. Searching for a late goal, Belgium brought on 35-year-old Dries Mertens and half-fit Romelu Lukaku, among others.

It’s not over for Belgium at this World Cup, and the Red Devils do count among their ranks up-and-coming talents like Charles De Ketelaere and Amadou Onana, both 21.

But it seems the Golden Generation’s moment to do something truly special may have passed.

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