Belgium falls short at World Cup

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 6, 2014 at 9:12 am •  Published: July 6, 2014
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BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Belgium coach Marc Wilmots and his players will return home from Brazil with a sense of unfulfilled promise, despite reaching the quarterfinals of the team's first World Cup for a dozen years.

The expectation was always that Belgium's creative talent could dazzle the world. Instead, Wilmots made it a coldly calculating campaign that earned his side four straight victories until it reached the last eight on Saturday against Argentina.

And when it finally met a great team at the World Cup, Belgium was exposed as being not good enough, not yet at least.

Saturday's 1-0 defeat in Brasilia put an end to the hopes — and a rare frenzy of patriotism — of a small nation of 11 million people. A campaign that promised so much with the individual talent at Wilmots' disposal ended up as a case of what might have been.

"We could have and should have done much more," said left back Jan Vertonghen, probably Belgium's best player of the World Cup.

It's a view shared by Wilmots.

"We felt we were on the verge of something big," the coach and former Belgium midfielder said.

The fact that Vertonghen flourished on the world stage was only one of several surprises — both good and bad — in the squad.

While many expected Romelu Lukaku to shine as a high-scoring center forward, teenager Divock Origi made just as much of an impact — despite only being picked because top striker Christian Benteke missed the tournament through injury.

When everyone was looking for Vincent Kompany to be the rock in defense, Belgium's progress was just as much down to the ability of 36-year-old Daniel van Buyten to close the gaps, even though most thought he was destined for a World Cup on the bench.

And most importantly of all, the world was waiting for Eden Hazard to shine and to become Belgium's answer to the likes of Argentina's Lionel Messi and Brazil's Neymar.