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Belgium U21: A new golden generation on its way?

11 years after the current ‘Golden’ generation, the U21 Belgium squad is on its way to qualify for the 2020 Olympic soccer tournament. To do so, they will have to reach the semi-finals of the upcoming European Cup in Italy. Is a new ‘Golden’ generation on its way? We made a comparison between these youngsters and the squad who reached 4th place at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Let's go back in time, more specifically to August 16, 2008, Beijing Workers Stadium. After a fenomenal run from midfield, Moussa Dembele scores the 2-3 winner against Italy and secures a spot for the Olympics semi-finals.

A few statistics on the selection of 2008: 68% (13 out of 19 players) were formed in Belgian clubs. In The Netherlands, 21% (4 out of 19) were formed with Ajax as main supplier. Players like De Mul, Vertonghen and Vermaelen were playing for the Dutch record champion. Almost half (!) of this selection made it to the Premier League and 5 players recently won bronze at the World Cup in Russia.

Selection U21 Belgium, Olympics 2008
Name Formation club Country Formation years
Thomas Vermaelen Ajax The Netherlands 4
Tom De Mul Ajax The Netherlands 3
Jan Vertonghen Ajax The Netherlands 5
Vincent Kompany Anderlecht Belgium 5,5
Maarten Martens Anderlecht Belgium 4
Anthony Vandenborre Anderlecht Belgium 5
Vadis Odjidja Anderlecht Belgium 4
Stijn De Smet Cercle Brugge Belgium 7
Yves-Makabu-Makalambay Chelsea United Kingdom 3
Moussa Démbélé Germinal Beerschot Belgium 3
Logan Bailly Genk Belgium 7
Sébastien Pocognoli Genk Belgium 5
Faris Haroun Genk Belgium 5
Kevin Mirallas Lille France 4
Jeroen Simaeys OH Leuven Belgium 3
Sepp De Roover PSV The Netherlands 3
Laurent Ciman Sporting Charleroi Belgium 4
Marouane Fellaini Standard Belgium 5,5
Landry Mulemo Standard Belgium 4

If we look at the most recent selection against Denmark U21, 92% (23 out of 25) were formed in Belgian clubs. The only exceptions are Zinho Vanheusden and Senna Miange who were formed at Inter Milan. It is no surprise that more and more Belgian youngsters decide to stay in Belgium: In recent years, the FA and Pro League invested many resources in youth academies to increase the quality of talent development.

On top of that, more and more Belgian youth players are receiving playing time: A whopping 24 out of 25 players from the selection against Denmark U21 already made appearances in the highest soccer league.

Selection Belgium U21 against Denmark U21 (03/20/2019)
Name Formation club Country Formation years
Francis Amuzu Anderlecht Belgium 5
Samuel Bastien Anderlecht Italy 3
Wout Faes Anderlecht Belgium 3
Aaron Leya Iseka Anderlecht Belgium 3
Dodi Lukebakio Anderlecht Belgium 6
Orel Mangala Anderlecht Belgium 3
Alexis Saelemaeckers Anderlecht Belgium 5
Jens Teunckens Club Brugge Belgium 4
Jur Schryvers Club Brugge Belgium 5
Bryan Heynen Genk Belgium 7
Nordin Jackers Genk Belgium 7
Siebe Schrijvers Genk Belgium 5
Dries Wouters Genk Belgium 7
Senna Miangue Inter (Ita) Italy 3
Zino Vanheusden Inter (Ita) Italy 3
Elias Cobbaut KV Mechelen Belgium 6
Jordi Vanlerberghe KV Mechelen Belgium 6
Manuel Benson Lierse Belgium 5
Ortwin De Wolf Lokeren Belgium 5
Dion Cools OH Leuven Belgium 3
Rocky Bushiri Oostende Belgium 5
Alexis De Sart Standard Belgium 4
Sammy Mmaee Standard Belgium 6
Stéphane Omeonga Standard Belgium 3
Casper De Norre STVV Belgium 3

Remarkably we can find only a few players in this selection born in 1996. This generation outperformed their peers from Spain and booked victories with large goal differences. This ‘golden’ generation received a lot of praise but many of them are missing out on their way towards professional soccer.

Can we conclude that a new golden generation is on their way? Many have yet to confirm on the highest level but the future of Belgian soccer looks bright. Let’s start with the qualification for the Olympics 2020 via the upcoming European Championship in Italy!