Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Belgium Greatest All-time team

This blogger Artur Yanturin of Russia copied many of my blog teams.  This blog was one of them.  It was my Russia All-Time Team here.  His team was written in 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2014.   His Spartak Moscow All-Time team entry of  was published in October 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2017.  His entry of the Dutch-German rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona was written in 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2014.  He also copied many many of my blog entries.

His Facebook and Instagram

World Cup 1986

Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index

Belgium's football journey has seen remarkable highs and lows. They claimed Olympic Gold in 1920, but remained relatively quiet on the international stage until 1972, when they achieved a memorable victory over Italy in the Euro quarterfinals. The 1980s marked a golden period for Belgian football, with stars like Jean Marie-Pfaff, Jan Ceulemans, Franky Van der Elst, Enzo Scifo, and Eric Gerets shining bright. They finished as runners-up in Euro 1980 and qualified for every World Cup from 1982 to 2002, reaching the semifinals in 1986. Following a lean period from 2002 to 2012, Belgium's new Golden Generation emerged, featuring talents like Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard, and Thibaut Courtois, who excelled for major European clubs. Their resurgence culminated in a semifinal appearance at the 2018 World Cup.

Belgium Euro 1980
GK : Jean-Marie Pfaff
Jean-Marie Pfaff was one of the best keepers in the world during the 1980's.  He spent most of his professional career with Beveren and Bayern Munich. Pfaff was capped 64 times playing for Red Devils. He participated at the World Cup Finals of 1982 and 1986, and at the European Championship of 1980 and 1984.  He was the starting goalkeeper as Belgium finished second at Euro 1980 and reached the semifinal at Mexico 1986.
Jean Marie-Pfaff
GK: Michel Preud’Homme
Michel Preud’Homme played for Standard Liège, Mechelen, and Benfica. With Mechelen, he won the Belgian Cup in 1987, the Cup Winner's Cup and the European Super Cup in 1988. He was alas a legend with Benfica, earn g the nick name "Saint Michel" there. For the national team, he had 58 caps.  He went to the WC in 1994, where he was voted as the best keeper.  He also was a team member at Euro 1980 and 1984.

GK: Thibaut Courtois 
Thibaut Courtois joined Chelsea from Genk in 2011, but he was sent away to Atletico Madrid immediately.  He won the Europa League in his first season and then, a Copa del Rey in his second season.  In his final season, Atletico Madrid reached the Final of the Champions' League, but lost to Real Madrid.  He was the starting keeper for Belgium at World Cup 2014 and 2018, and Euro 2016.

RB:: Eric Gerets
Eric Gerets is considered one of the greatest European rightbacks in history. His best club career was spent with Standard de Liège and PSV Eindhoven.  He won the 1988 European Cup with PSV as their captain. He also played briefly for AC Milan and MVV Maastricht.  Gerets was capped 86 times.  He played a big role as the Red Devils finished second at the 1980 European Championship in Italy and reached the semi-final of the World Cup 1986 Finals.
Eric Gerets
CB/LB: Jan Vertonghen 
Jan Vertonghen began his career with Ajax in 2016, where he was Dutch Footballer of the Year in 2012.  In 2012, he moved to Tottenham Hotspurs.  He is considered one of the best defenders in the Premiership. At the time of writing, he had ever 100 caps. He played in both 2014 and 2018 World Cup Finals. He was an important part of the team that reached the semifinal in 2018.

CB/RB: Toby Alderweireld 
Toby Alderweireld began his professional career at Ajax in 2008.  In 2013, he moved to Atlético Madrid, where he won La Liga and reached the Champions League final in his first season.  Since 2015, he has been playing with Tottenham Hotspurs.  At the time of writing, he has over 116 caps.  He went to 2014 and 2018 World Cup Finals as well as the European Championship of  2016 and 2020.

CB: Vincent Kompany
Vincent Kompany is widely considered one of the best center-back of his generation.   At the club level, He played for Anderlecht and Hamburger Sv before joining Manchester City in 2008. In 2011-2012, he became the captain of Manchester City, leading his club to win the Premier League that season, their first league title in 44 years.  At time of writing, he earned over 94 caps and played at the World Cup Finals in 2014 and 2018
Vincent Kompany
SW/CB: Walter Meeuws
During his career, Walter Meeuws played for K. Beerschot V.A.C., Club Brugge K.V., R. Standard de Liège, AFC Ajax and K.V. Mechelen. He earned 46 caps for the Red Devils, and participated in the European Championship in 1980 and the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain.  He played in the Final of the 1980 European Champion, where Belgium lost to West Germany.
LB: Alfons Van Brandt  
Van Brandt played 38 times for Belgium between 1950 and 1957. He went to the World Cup Finals in 1954, where he earned his reputation for defending Stanley Matthews in the game against England. A year later, he played for a Continental Selection side against England, where he once again defended well against Matthews. He was Belgium's Player of the Year in 1955. 

LB: Armand Swartenbroeks
Between 1913 and 1928, Armand Swartenbroeks played 53 international games, a Belgian record at the time. He was their captain for 37 matches. He was a member of the Belgium Olympic team, which won the gold medal in 1920 tournament. He also went to the Paris Olympic in 1924.  For club football, Swartenbroeks made his debut in 1911 in the first team of Daring Club Brussels. He played for the team until 1930.

CM: Wilfried Van Moer
Wilfried Van Moer is considered one of the greatest players from Belgium.  He played 57 times and scored 9 goals for the national team between 1966 and 1982. Van Moer was in the team for the 1970 and 1982 World Cups and for the Euro 1980 in which Belgium finished second. He also contributed to Beglium reaching the semifinal of Euro 1972. He was already 35 years old in 1980.  He finished 4th at the European Player of the Year that year. For his club career, he was associated with Beveren, Royal Antwerp and Standard Liege.
Wilfried Van Moer
CM: Franky Van Der Elst
Van der Elst started his professional career at R.W.D. Molenbeek in 1978, earning his first call-up for Belgium in 1982. Two years later, he moved to Club Brugge KV and stayed there until he finished his career in 1999.  Van der Elst also appeared in four FIFA World Cups from 1986 to 1998. He was Belgium Player of the Year in 1990 and 1996. Pele selected him as one of the 125 Greatest Living Players.

AM/CM: Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne began his career at Genk. After an unsuccessful spell with Chelsea, he was named  Footballer of the Year in Germany while playing with Wolfsburg. In 2015, he joined Manchester City for a club record £54 million.  Since 2010, he has played over 80 caps for Belgium. He helped Belgium to reach the semi-final at the 2018 World Cup Finals.

AM/CM: Enzo Scifo
Born in Belgium of Italian background,  Enzo Scifo made his name with Anderlecht, helping the team to the 1984 UEFA Cup Final.  He also played in both France and Italy at the club level.  He was capped over 80 times between 1984 and 1998.  He appeared for Belgium in the World Cups of 1986, 1990, 1994, and 1998, playing sixteen games in total.  He was a star at the World Cup Finals in 1986 and 1990, where he scored one of the best goals of the tournament in 1990.  
Enzo Scifo
RW: François Van der Elst
From 1969 to 1980, Van der Elst played for R.S.C. Anderlecht. In 1976 he was part of the 1975–76 European Cup Winners' Cup-winning squad, netting twice in the final against West Ham United (4–2) and, in the following season's league, was crowned the competition's top scorer at 21 goals, as the Brussels side finished in second position. He also played for NY Cosmos and West Ham.  He was capped 44 times and went to Euro 1980. 

AM/FW: Eden Hazard
At the time of writing, Eden Hazard has already earned 100 caps and led Belgium to the semi-final of the World Cup in 2018.  He played for Lille in France for 8 years. He signed with Chelsea in June 2012, where he won two Europa League in 2012 and 2019. He won both FWA and PFA Player of the Year for the 2014-2015 season in England.  In 2019, he joined Real Madrid.
Ed Hazard
AM/RW/CM: Joseph Jurion
Jurion was an all-time great with Anderlecht, where he won 8 championship titles and one Cup and was awarded 2 Golden Shoe.  In 1962, he led his club team to eliminate Real Madrid at the European Cup. He was capped 64 times.  He began his international career in 1955 against France. During his 64 appearances, he played at 7 different positions and scored 9 times.

AM/FW: Jan Ceulemans
Jan Ceulemans is considered one of Belgium's greatest players. He was capped 96 times as Belgium's joint cap leader.  He was instrumental as Beglium reached the Final of European Championship in 1980 and the semi-final at the 1986 World Cup Finals.  He also went to the 1982 and 1990 World Cup Finals and Euro 1984. He started his career with Lierse S.K., but spent 13 years with Brugge, turning down AC Milan to stay with them.
Jan Ceulemans
ST: Joseph "Jef" Mermans 
Joseph Mermans played much of his career at Anderlecht, with whom he won 7 Belgian Championship titles and finished top scorer of this competition 3 times. Mermans played 56 matches with the Belgium national football team, 2 of which in the 1954 FIFA World Cup. He is also the 4th top scorer ever for the Belgium national team with 27 goals.

FW/SS: Paul Van Himst 
Paul Van Himst is often viewed as the greatest Belgian player of all-time. He played mainly for Anderlecht.  He won the Belgian championship 8 times, all of them with Anderlecht. He won the Golden Shoe (the Belgian Player of the Year award), a record 4 times.  For the Red Devils, he was capped 80 times between 1960 and 1974.  He put Belgium's football on the map by leading them to 3rd place at the European Championship in 1972.  He also went to the 1970 World Cup Finals in Mexico.
Paul Van Himst 
ST: Romelu Lukaku 
Lukaku began his professional career at Anderlecht in 2009, where he made his debut, at age 16. He signed with Chelsea, but made his name with Everton, where he played between 2014 and 2017.  He then played two seasons with Manchester United before joining Inter Milan in 2019.  Since 2010, he has been capped by Belgium.  At the time of writing, he has over 80 caps. He is the all-time leading scorer for his country.  

ST: Raymond Braine
Raymond Braine started with Beerschot V.A.C. at home,  He became the first ever professional player from Belgium when he joined Sparta Prague in 1930. He was the top scorer in the Czech legue for 1932 and 1934.  He was asked to play for Czechoslovakia in the 1934 WC Finals, but he refused and Czecholovakia finished second.  He would play for Belgium at the 1938 WC Finals.

ST: Henri Coppens
Henri Coppens was the star of Belgian football after the War.  He spent most of his career with Beerschot VAC. He was top scorer of the First Division in 1952, 1953 and 1955 and won the first ever Belgian Golden Shoe in 1954. Coppens played 47 times between 1949 and 1959 for Belgium, and scored 21 goals( ten of them alone in six games against the Netherlands). He participated in the 1954 World Cup Finals. 
Henri Coppens
Honorable mention
Jean De Bie, Lorenzo Staelens, Timmy Simons, René Vandereycken, Erwin Vandenbergh, Bernard Voorhoof, Lei Clijsters, George Grün, Thomas Vermaelen, Philippe Albert, Joseph Mermans, Georges Heylens, Gilbert Van Binst, Joseph Mermans. Christian Piot, Luc Nilis, Georges Heylens, Armand Swartenbroeks, Ludo Coeck, Marc Degryse, Georges Grün, Louis Carre, Lorenzo Staelens, Thomas Vermaelen, Daniel Van Buyten, Leo Clijsters, Axel Witsel, Dries Mertens, Erwin Vandenbergh, Laurent Verbiest, Walter Meeuws, Marc Wilmots.

Squad explanation
-- The original team was created in 2014.  Because of the successes of the current generations of Belgian footballers, I have reviewed this team many times.  Over the years, Jan Vertonghen, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Ed Hazard were added to the team.  Then, in September 2021, I completely redid the team.  Some of the explanations here were outdated.
-- Paul Van Himst is widely considered to be the Belgian greatest player.  Ed Hazard, Jan Ceulemans. Jean-Marie Pfaff, Michel Preud’Homme, Wilfried Van Moer, Kevin De Bruyne, Eric Gerets,Vincent Kompany and Enzo Scifo were all automatic selection.  No explanation is needed for their inclusion to the team.   
-- In 1995, the Golden Shoe of the Century was given to Paul Van Himst by the Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) as the greatest Belgian player of the 20th century.  Jan Ceulemans, Wilfried Van Moer, Henri "Rik" Coppens, Michel Preud’Homme, Jean-Marie Pfaff, Raymond Braine, Eric Gerets, Joseph "Jef" Mermans and Ludo Coeck finished in the top ten.
-- The Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) celebrated its 125-year anniversary in September 2020. As part of the celebrations, football fans had the opportunity to elect their All-Time Best XI. This team consists of Michel Preud'homme, Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany, Philippe Albert, Eric Gerets, Axel Witsel, Enzo Scifo, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, and Jan Ceulemans.
-- IFFHS selected two All-Time teams for Belgium. The first team includes Jean-Marie Pfaff, Eric Gerets, Georges Grün, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Enzo Scifo, Wilfried Van Moer, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Paul Van Himst, and Raymond Braine. The second team consists of Michel Preud'homme, Georges Heylens, Laurent Verbiest, Walter Meeuws, Michel Renquin, Jef Jurion, Ludo Coeck, Jan Ceulemans, Franky Vercauteren, Romelu Lukaku, and Joseph Mermans.
--Franky Vercauteren, Ludo Coeck, Bernard Voorhoof, Luc Nilis and Marc Wilmots were the biggest names not selected for the team. 
-- After Belgium reached the semifinal of the 2018 World Cup Finals, I made several changes.  The players were rewarded for their historical achievements.  Kevin De Bruyne replaced rightback Gilbert Van Binst while Jan Vertonghen took over Philippe Albert's position.  Axel Witsel, Dries Mertens and Thomas Vermaelen were added to honourable mention.  Before the World Cup Finals, Thibaut Courtois, and Romelu Lukaku (see below) were already on honorable mention.  Both were added to the team on August, 2020.  Finally, I added Toby Alderweireld.
World Cup 2018
-- Belgium reached the semifinal of Euro 1972.  The tournament put Belgian football on the map.  Paul Van Himst and Wilfried Van Moer played on that team, but Van Moer missed the Finals. Gilbert Van Binst was on the original team, but after the 2018 World Cup Finals, I dropped him for a younger player. That team was underrepresented here.
-- The 1980's generation helped Belgium to finish second at Euro 1980 and 3rd at the 1986 World Cup Finals.  Jan Ceulemans, Eric Gerets, Jean-Marie Pfaff, Michel Preud’Homme, Franky Vercauteren, François Van der Elst, Enzo Scifo, Franky Van Der Elst and Michel Renquin all played in the 1980's. 
-- Jean-Marie Pfaff, in my opinion, was Belgium's top goalkeeper. Pfaff's contributions in the 1986 World Cup, where Belgium achieved their best-ever finish at that time, solidified his status ahead of Michel Preud'Homme. While Preud'Homme also excelled at the World Cup, winning the prestigious Lev Yashin Award in 1994, the overall strength of Belgium's 1980s team influenced my opinion. Pfaff's form even kept Preud'Homme out of the national team at one point.
-- In 2021, I replaced Jean De Bie who was my third keeper with Thibaut Courtois.  Many people already listed Courtois as Belgium's greatest goalkeeper. With Real Madrid, he won a Champions' League in 2022. He also received the Lev Yashin Award in 2018. I admitted not knowing much about Jean De Bie.
Thibaut Courtois
-- During his domestic career, Jean De Bie played mostly for Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles. At the international level, he won the gold medal at the 1920 Summer Olympics playing for Belgium national football team and, at 38 years of age, he was selected in the Belgian squad for the 1930 FIFA World Cup, although he never played a match at the tournament.
-- In 2021, Michel Preud’Homme was chosen as Belgium's greatest goalkeeper in a fan poll organised by the Belgian Football Association for their 125th anniversary. 
-- Vincent Kompany was truly dominant as a centreback during his prime, establishing himself as one of the best in the world. Jan Vertonghen holds the record for most appearances for Belgium. Selecting the final two central defenders proved challenging due to several deserving candidates. Michel Renquin, Georges Grün, Louis Carre, Philippe Albert, Lorenzo Staelens, Walter Meeuws, Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen, and Daniel Van Buyten all warranted consideration. To incorporate different generations, I initially opted for Walter Meeuws, who played a key role during Belgium's successful period in the 1980s. However, after evaluating their club careers at higher levels, I placed Alderweireld ahead Renquin with Toby Alderweireld. Alderweireld's extensive and renowned tenure in England stood out. Similarly, Philippe Albert, the 1992 Belgian Gold Shoe winner, had an impressive resume, but I ultimately favored Alderweireld.
Jan Vertonghen 
-- Michel Renquin played for Standard Liege between 1974 and 1981. He also played for RSC Anderlecht, and Servette Geneva and FC Sion in Switzerland. He was capped 55 times at the international level.  He was a member of the Golden Generation that found successes from Euro 1980 to the World Cup Finals in 1986.
-- George Grün also had a wonderful career with Parma.  His goal against the Netherlands in 1985 helped Belgium to qualify ahead of their neighbor for the 1986 World Cup Finals.
-- Central defender Laurent Verbiest died young and was relatively forgotten outside of Belgium. I only put him on honorable mention.  
-- Eric Gerets was probably one of the greatest European fullbacks of all-time.  He would be more highly rated if he was German or Italian.   Georges Heylens and Gilbert Van Binst also deserved a spot, but I had too many great players upfield.  Heylens might be ahead of Van Binst who was on my original team.  Alderweireld played mainly as a rightback for the national team.  He would be the backup.
-- Armand Swartenbroeks earned 59 caps between 1928 and 1938, which was then an astonishing number at the period. He captained 37 of those matches. He was probably Belgium's greatest leftback. Alfons Van Brandt earned the reputation of being one of the best in Europe after playing well against Stanley Matthews twice.  At the same time, I knew nothing of his career outside of those matches. I might drop him off in the future.
-- Wilfried Van Moer was a crucial link between the 1970s and 1980s generations for Belgium. He played a vital role as Belgium reached the Euro 1972 semifinals, although he missed the Finals due to a broken leg. He later participated in Euro 1980 and the 1982 World Cup Finals. Despite facing injuries, a recall to the national team in 1979 proved pivotal as it aided Belgium's qualification for Euro 1980.
-- Kevin De Bruyne is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world, and his impressive performances in the 2018 World Cup Finals further solidified his reputation. He has won the PFA Players' Player of the Year and Bundesliga Player of the Year. Franky Van Der Elst, according to a Dutch source, was ranked among the top 10 greatest Belgian players. Enzo Scifo showcased his talent in the 1986 World Cup Finals, leaving a lasting impression. Joseph Jurion, a versatile player, achieved a notable fourth-place finish in the Ballon d'Or rankings in 1962. While his primary position might be in midfield, his exact best position remains uncertain.
Franky Van Der Elst 
-- Enzo Scifo was born in La Louvière, where the Hazard brothers were born.  In 1984, he was the youngest player ever to play in the European Championship.  However, he actually had a rough start in his club career.  He failed in Inter Milan and Bordeaux before finding himself elsewhere.  For national team, he was Belgium's best player in their Golden Generation of the 1980's.
-- Ludo Coeck was one of the best players not selected for this team.  He helped RSC Anderlecht to win an UEFA Cup, but injuries kept him from fulfilling his career.  René Vandereycken was also a well-respected midfielder in his time, but who can I drop to accommodate him?  Axel Witsel was overshadowed by other Belgian players of his generation.  However, he was selected onto the Best XI in a fan poll organization by the Belgian Football Association for their 125 Anniversary in 2021. That carried some merits in a way, but Wilfried Van Moer is ahead of him.
-- Eden Hazard was a member of this team even before the World Cup Finals in 2018.  In 2014-2015 season, he was one of the best players in Europe.  His career had regressed since 2015, but he still remained one of Belgium's greatest players. He helped Belgium to the semifinal of the World Cup Finals in 2018.  
-- I needed another left winger or left side player to backup Hazard.  Franky Vercauteren was a legend with RSC Anderlecht.  He was ranked as high as the 24th greatest Belgian player by a Dutch source.  I also looked into Wilfried Puis of the 1960's.  In the end, I went for another position and took Joseph Mermans.  Mermans was one of Belgium's greatest players. How could I bypass him? Initially, I bypassed him because I already had Paul Van Himst, Romelu Lukaku, Henri Coppens and Raymond Braine.   Dries Mertens who could play as a wing forward was also considered.
-- Franky Vercauteren made his debut for Anderlecht in 1975. He won the five European titles with Anderlecht (two European Cup Winners' Cups, one UEFA Cup and two European Supercups). In 1987, he joined Nantes in France and came back to Belgium three years later to play with Molenbeek. He played 63 times with Belgium. He was part of the squad that finished fourth at the 1986 World Cup, and also featured in the 1982 World Cup and at Euro 1984. 
-- On the right, I do not have much choice.  So I took François Van der Elst. He went to four World Cup Finals.  I also considered dropping him for Jef Mermans.
-- Paul Van Himst and Jan Ceulemans finished 1st and 2nd as the Greatest Belgian Footballer of the Century in 1995.  Henri Coppens was voted as the 4th while Raymond Braine was 6th and Jef Mermans 9th.  
-- Marc Wilmots had a successful career in the Bundesliga and showcased his talent during the 2002 World Cup Finals against Brazil. Despite his remarkable performance, his opening goal was incorrectly disallowed, possibly affecting Belgium's chances of beating Brazil. In August 2020, when I edited the team, I made the decision to replace Wilmots with Romelu Lukaku, who has since become Belgium's all-time leading scorer. However, I initially hesitated to drop Wilmots or Jef Mermans from the team, as Wilmots had the distinction of representing Belgium in four World Cup Finals. Nevertheless, Lukaku has revitalized his career after leaving Manchester United and, by 2021, he became Belgium's most expensive player ever.
-- Raymond Braine was Belgium's first ever professional player. He has a historical role. Henri Coppens was a star after the War, but he played in an era when Belgium was weak.  Nevertheless, I selected him based on his historical role.
Raymond Braine
-- Fernand Goyvaerts made a significant impact by playing for both Barcelona and Real Madrid during a time when Belgium was not widely recognized in football. In 1964, he was voted the best foreigner in the Primera División, but unfortunately, injuries hindered his career progression. Luc Nillis reached the peak of his career while playing in Belgium and the Netherlands. However, an injury prevented him from fulfilling his potential in England, where he had promising prospects.
Raoul Lambert holds the distinction of being the first Belgian player ever included in the European Championship Team of the Tournament. Until November 14, 2017, Bernard Voorhoof was the top scorer of the Belgian national team with 30 goals in 61 matches, but I did not have room for him.  

Starting Lineup
Formation: 4-2-3-1
This team was created in 2014, but I edited the formation in July, 2021. Raymond Braine was taken off the team.  I am now using De Bruyne as a box-to-box midfielder. Paul Van Himst became the center forward.  Thibaut Courtois might be number one.  I do not know if Walter Meeuws should start.


  1. where is van der gol,loodo kuk,vab der berg

  2. Mermans , still considered by many as the number one (together with Van Himst). Wilmots and Van Binst never ever.

  3. Courtois is already all time No. 1 in Belgium.

  4. Romelu Lukaku with 52 in 84 matches (0.62 goals per game) not only should be included on the team, he should be at the starting lineup. He is by far (in numbers and acomplishments) the best belgian striker ever.

  5. Pfaff/Preud'homme
    Georges-Grün/Albert Vertonghen/Swartenbroeks
    Gerets Axel-Witsel v Brandt
    François vd Elst Louis-Van-Hege Roger-Claessen Braine Hazard

    a classic WW-formation, with a lot of classic players. despite the national biases, the best players were actually the international performers.

  6. 1.Preudhomme
    4.Van Brandt
    5.Van Moer
    6.De Brueyne
    7.E Hazard
    10.Van Himst

  7. Not convinced by Van Brandt as the left back. Supposedly keeping Matthews quiet in a 4-4 draw doesn't seem the strongest case. Matthews assisted at least one of the goals. I think Vertongen might be the best option on the left.

  8. Im watching hours of world cup and qualifiers for the red devils, and to me escapes all logic how Frankie Vercauteren is not a "starter" on the left. I mean, the two more recent backs are good but perspective... Vertonghen is not in the same class of Vercauteren.