World Cup 2014: ITV Preview Belgium v Algeria

James Dutton and Greg Johnson imagine the scenes in the ITV studios as they cover Belgium’s opening game at the 2014 World Cup against Algeria…

Adrian Chiles: Goeiendag! Hallo! Welgekomen to ITV’s coverage of the Red Devils from Belgium against the Desert Foxes of Algeria. Yes, that’s right, Belgium are in town and the golden generation is ready to take the world by storm. With me, overlooking the beauty of the Copacabana Beach are Lee Dixon, Roy Kea… sorry… Patrick Vieira and Fabio Cannavaro. Continue reading

Five Belgians staking a late claim for the 2014 World Cup

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TFN’s Hugo Greenhalgh picks five young Belgians who could yet find themselves on the plane to Brazil this summer…

1. Thorgan Hazard (Zulte Waregem, on loan from Chelsea, 20)

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As Eden continues to cement his reputation as one of the Premier League’s brightest stars, brother Thorgan is making waves of his own. Indeed, Francky Dury, his coach at Zulte Waregem, declared last week, “He is no longer Eden’s brother. He is Thorgan Hazard in his own right”. Now in his second season on loan at the Belgian side, Hazard was recently awarded the Golden Show Award for the best player in the League. Continue reading

Adnan Januzaj: Why England must resist the call of the wild card

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James Gheerbrant argues against England’s push to naturalise Manchester United youngster Adnan Januzaj…

The enduring fascination and frustration of international football, the thing about it that compels and confounds in equal measure, is that there are no quick fixes. For the international manager, there are no easy answers to the sort of problems that club coaches are used to eliminating with a fusillade of their semi-automatic chequebook. If your side doesn’t have a decent striker (a problem which has plaqued a succession of otherwise outstanding Portugal teams, for example), then you cannot simply dip into the transfer market to acquire one. If the issues run deeper, if they reflect a nation’s football culture, they must be solved through grass-roots graft, not by parachuting in a panacea. The beauty of the international game is that there is no hiding from the ugly truth.

That, at least, was how it used to be. But on Saturday Roy Hodgson, the manager entrusted by the FA to nurse the ailing English patient towards Brazil, had a glimpse of just such a miracle cure. At Sunderland on Saturday, Manchester United’s Adnan Januzaj, 18 years old and precociously gifted, inspired a comeback victory on his full debut with two superbly taken goals – and announced himself as perhaps English’s football unlikeliest Messiah. For it emerged that Januzaj, though born and raised in Belgium to Albanian parents, could yet qualify to pull on the Three Lions on residency grounds. No matter that Januzaj has lived here only two years, no matter that England is in no real sense his homeland, he is the prodigious playmaker we have hungered for through the wilderness years. In this modern-day football parable, he is not so much the prodigal son as the fatted calf. Continue reading

Jan Vertonghen and the United Federation of the Low Countries

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Elko Born looks at the impact Belgian footballers have had on the historical, cultural rivalry between Belgium and The Netherlands…

‘It still gives me a stomach ache,’ FC Twente’s chairman Joop Munsterman recently told Elf Voetbal, reminiscing about the 15th of May 2011: the day Ajax beat Twente 3-1 in a thrilling, last day of the season title decider.

How different it must have been for Ajax’s fans and players. By beating Twente 3-1, Ajax didn’t just win the title, they won their first title in seven years, a nightmare inducing low haul for Ajax’s high (and according to many, arrogant) standards. Low especially because throughout all those years, Ajax needed just one more title in order to place a long sought after ‘third star’ on their red and white jerseys.

The Ajax fans wanted that third star. They were prepared to go to war that third star. To kill for it even.

By clinching that thirtieth title (you get a star for every ten championships), Belgian international Jan Vertonghen, who had been an Ajax player since the age of 16, finally fulfilled the role everyone had long expected of him and his highly rated young teammates. If Vertonghen had a stomach ache, he would have had it before the match, not after it. Continue reading

What’s next for Marcelo Bielsa? Five jobs for football’s tactical fundamentalist

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Greg Johnson rustles up five potential new dug-outs for the man behind “vertical football” to takeover this summer…

Marcelo Bielsa needs a new job. Although cited by Jonathan Wilson as the progenitor to football’s current obsession with ball retention and worshipped as a sort of tactical deity by his fans, he is currently unemployed after parting ways with Athletic Club of Bilbao.

Having masterminded Athletic to two finals last season, losing out as runners-up to Atletico Madrid and Barcelona in the Europa League and Copa Del Rey respectively, this year the man they call El Loco hasn’t fared so well. With the loss of Javi Martinez to Bayern Munich and a distracted Fernando Llorente dropped from the starting line-up, the €40M received from the German champions did little to help plug the gaps left by such vital players due to the club’s Basque-only recruitment policy.

Now the eccentric former Argentina and Chile coach is left searching for a fresh project to work his idiosyncratic ways on, but where can he go?

Too head strong and unpredictable for the Real Madrid hot seat, and too alternative to be short-listed as Ancelotti’s successor at Paris Saint-Germain, he’s a manager whose methods are better suited to open-minded underdogs and sides just outside of the established big club orthodoxy.

Here are five jobs that may interest football’s tactical fundamentalist. Continue reading

Premier League can be the platform for Belgian success

False Nine writer Matt Malone takes a look at the recent influx of Belgians in English football and asks what they might be capable of…

For many years, asking a person to name three famous Belgians proved to be a sure fire way to bring about a prolonged silence followed by the sheepish response that perhaps, despite being fictional, Hercule Poirot and Tintin must count as the two great detectives summed up a country that was far more famous for its beer and waffles then it ever could be for the great people that represented it on a world stage. Continue reading