Age is much more than just a number for Belgium

December 03, 2022 - 08:19
And considering they are ranked number two in the world, and finished third at the 2018 World Cup in Russia in 2018, then Belgium must have surely fancied their chances.
Kevin De Bruyne believes Belgium are too old. AFP Photo

Nguyễn Thu Hương

When being asked about his team's chances of winning the World Cup, Belgium superstar Kevin De Bruyne said they were too old for the victory. Is there a real limitation of age for the world champions? Is it true that there is ‘no glory for old men’? I very much doubt it.

Let's be realistic, most teams went into the Qatar World Cup knowing they were incredibly unlikely to ever win it. Barring an upset of gargantuan proportions, there's only really a handful of countries who can safely say they are in it, to win it.

And considering they are ranked number two in the world, and finished third at the 2018 World Cup in Russia in 2018, then Belgium must have surely fancied their chances.

“No chance, we’re too old,” De Bruyne said. “I think our chance was 2018. We have a good team, but it is aging.”

On one hand, the Manchester City midfielder has been proven right. His team lost to Morocco and failed to find the net against Croatia on Thursday night.

Out of the competition, and already coach Roberto Martinez has stepped down.

What De Bruyne said seems not entirely wrong, with that Belgium lost to Morocco and couldn’t score against Croatia in the Thursday match, to crash out the world biggest sport festival in tears and disappointments.

But is their age to blame or is it merely just a number? They have an average age of 27.6 years among their squad, sixth oldest from all their teams. Now it is fair to say many of their so called better players are the wrong side of 30. De Bruyne is 31.

Some of their elder statesmen have been struggling with injuries and it's clear at this competition, they have rarely threatened to live up to their earlier potential.

Nguyễn Thu Hương.

De Bruyne is a class act. He's one of, if not the, best players in the Premier League so far this season, just as he was last.

So maybe this 'Golden Generation' is coming to an end, with nothing in the bag to show for it. But it's worth noting that in the Premier League, he plays for the best team by a country mile, and the 10 players who wear the light blue of City are most if not all, head and shoulders above the Belgium squad.

Maybe his comments were a way to take the pressure off the team. But for club he is led by Pep Guardiola's unstoppable system. At international level, not so much.

The Red Devils, the nickname of the Belgian team, come sixth among oldest participants at the average age of 27.6. Some of their world-class players are in their early 30s and are aging over the prime. Some have struggled with injuries and could no longer impose a consistent threat on the field.

I just think he spoke too soon. And seemed to dismiss his team's chances before a ball was kicked, because truth be known, Belgium are not that old.

The average age of 21 World Cup champions is 27.3 years old. Not that much younger than the Belgium team. In the past five recent tournaments, the oldest winner was Italy in 2006, at surprisingly 29.6. Grand parents compared to Belgium.

Maybe age is just smoke and mirrors for the real problem. A massive lack of believe.

In the past, with his superb skillset and mindset, De Bruyne was able to inspire his team on and off the pitch. However, I feel regretful. What De Bruyne said also shows his lack of belief that Belgium could become the world champions. If so, how could a leader motivate and inspire his team towards glory?

As the Golden Generation of Belgium passed by, it’s quite an ironic feeling hearing the song of this World Cup - ‘Dreamers’:

Look who we are, we are the dreamers

We make it happen, ’cause we believe it

Belgium didn’t make it happen ‘cause they didn’t believe it. Nothing to do with how old they all are. VNS