Belgium have had one of Europe's best squads for the best part of a decade, but have rarely fulfilled their potential. After reaching the World Cup semi-finals in Russia three years ago, however, that may be about to change. Here are five players in their squad to look out for.
Jason Denayer (defender)
How is this man only 25? Jason Denayer has been around the European block and then some. Having come through as an 18-year-old at Manchester City back in 2014, Denayer was sent out on loan to Celtic, Galatasaray, Sunderland and then back to Galatasaray, but never featured for City in a four-year spell at the club.
Despite making his senior international debut in 2015, none of the afore-mentioned teams were willing to put their faith in him. Denayer’s career, though, got back on track when Lyon swooped in for his £5.6m million signature and the giant centre-half has not looked back since. 87 appearances and a title push in three years is nothing short of staggering for a young man who was on the periphery not too long ago. He's a rock at the heart of Belgium's defence.
Thomas Meunier (defender / midfielder)
Thomas Meunier has been an unsung hero for the majority of his career. Often overlooked and undervalued by a neutral eye, the 29-year-old has been at the top of the game since he made the move to Paris Saint Germain from his native side, Club Brugge. After enjoying impressive success with the French giants, Meunier was brought in by Borussia Dortmund as a replacement for Achraf Hakimi and has rarely put a foot wrong during his first two seasons in Germany – winning the DFB Pokal to cap off another impressive club campaign this season.
Meunier is ‘Mr. Reliable’ for Belgium, too. He barely missed a game en route to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and has been known to chip in with a few important goals, whilst hardly ever being caught out of position at the back.
Yannick Carrasco (midfielder)
Yannick Carraso seemed to put his career on hold when he left Atletico Madrid for the big bucks at Dalian Professional in China, but has since returned and simply picked up where he left in the Spanish capital. Carrasco was a huge asset in Atletico’s run to the 2016 UEFA Champions League final and opened the scoring in the showdown with local rivals Real Madrid before also converting his spot kick in the resulting shootout.
Definitely a man for the big occasion, the 27-year-old has been a mainstay at club level, but has only represented his county 44 times at senior level – scoring just six goals. Competing with Eden Hazard for a place on the pitch, though, is no mean feat. In fact, he’s probably more dangerous off the bench. Watch out for him in the latter stages.
Dries Mertens (forward)
Here’s a stat for you: Dries Mertens was the first player to score against England courtesy of VAR – the diminutive striker netted a late penalty to grab a draw at Wembley in a pre-World Cup friendly in 2018 and impacts the scoresheet more often than not for club and country.
After scoring 37 goals in 62 games for PSV Eindhoven in his two seasons at the club, Mertens joined Napoli for £8.2m and has almost equalled his goals per game ratio, finding the net 102 times in 265 appearances. Not only that, but he took over the captain’s armband when Marek Hamsik left the club and is on his way to becoming even more of a cult hero than the Slovak. That’s something many never saw anyone doing.
Jérémy Doku (forward)
The final player on the list isn’t so much about numbers, but the future. Jérémy Doku has only got three seasons of professional football under his belt, but is already making waves in the national team. Still only a teenager, the 19-year-old wonderkid has scored twice in the six games he’s featured in since his debut in September last year.
The 2020/21 campaign was his first at Rennes – it may not have gone as well as he would’ve liked stats wise, but lightning pace, quick thinking and natural understanding of the game are all attributes that have catapulted him into the Euro 2020 squad. He may not start many matches, but get ready to see him make an impact off the bench.