Belgium have reached the semifinal of the World Cup this year, and will play France today.
Belgium football’s story is a story of revival. Deemed as the “golden generation”, the small European nation emerged as one of the dark horses in the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euro, before finally entering the 2018 tournament as strong contenders for the trophy.
Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently published an investigative feature into how Belgian football revived itself in the last 20 years.
The change was led by Werner Helsen, a professor at KU Leuven at Belgium and Michel Sablon, the national football team’s technical director.
WSJ reports that they were inspired by the training regimes of violinists in Germany. Helsen concluded that the violinists spent hours in intense training, something which he found was lacking among the young Belgian footballers.
Eventually, they crafted proposals and exercised them in many schools and training academies. Some of the products of such intense training proposals included Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne.
They also came to a conclusion that Belgium’s youth football needed a complete reformatting, and changed their structure to four-a-side, eight-a-side, and finally eleven-a-side football. Such change gave the youth players an opportunity to learn to play in the four-person diamond formation.
The motivation to revamp the Belgian football came after the team’s shocking performance in the 2000 Euro Championships. Belgium, who were the co-host, lost to Turkey and Italy and knocked-out of the group stages of the tournament. Sablon reportedly called the performance of the Belgian side ‘rubbish’, and met with the-then president of Belgian Football Association, Michel D’Hooghe.