This could be the last chance for Belgium's big names at global glory, but there is no doubting they have the talent to contend at the World Cup.
This article was originally published on 21 September 2022
With some of the stars of their 'Golden Generation' now retired, Belgium look to be a team in transition and perhaps looking to the future. However, it would be foolish to write them off.
De Rode Duivels have often failed to justify their talent, with strange selections, poor coaching and difficult draws all pegging them back at different times.
While Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Mousa Dembele may have moved on, they can still call on the likes of the 2018 tournament's Best Goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.
After finishing third four years ago in Russia, Belgium are 12/1 to go all the way, although they will need to be careful not to come unstuck in a potentially awkward Group F, of which they are 8/15 to top.
|When||20th November-18th December 2022|
|How to watch||All matches will be shown on either the BBC or IT|
|Odds||Brazil 9/2, England 11/2, France 6/1, Argentina 7/1, Spain 8/1|
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez announced his final 26-man squad for the Qatar World Cup on November 10:
That third place in 2018 marked Belgium's best-ever run at a World Cup finals, eclipsing their fourth at Mexico '86.
After beating England to top spot in Group G, few would argue against the notion that they then found themselves on the tougher side of the draw in Russia. After battling past Japan and Brazil, they eventually lost to France in the semi-finals.
Their consolation was a second victory over England in the third-placed play-off but it was hard to escape the feeling that the tournament was an opportunity missed.
Barring their two semi-final showings, the best finish Belgium have recorded is a quarter-final appearance in Brazil in 2014.
The 2022 tournament will be their 14th appearance at the World Cup and their third in a row.
1934, 1938, 1990, 1994, 2002
1930, 1954, 1970, 1982, 1998
Despite uncertain moments during the draws in the Czech Republic and Wales, Belgium enjoyed an otherwise smooth passage through qualifying, topping Group E with a five-point buffer over Wales.
They remained unbeaten during qualifying, winning six and drawing two of their eight games.
Belgium have been drawn in Group F and while it would be foolish to grow complacent, they can at least be confident of topping the pool.
They open their campaign against Canada on 23rd November, in what will be the North American nation's first World Cup game since 1986. They are 1/4 to beat the Canadians in Al Khor before they then go on to face Morocco four days later in Doha.
With Croatia, beaten finalists four years ago, their final pool opponents on 1st December, both will be hopeful of having already qualified by the time they meet in Al Rayyan. That will enable them to battle it out for top spot, with the winner of Group F likely to play either Spain or Germany in the last 16.
This will be Roberto Martinez's third major tournament in charge of De Rode Duivels and it remains unclear whether he will stay on beyond Qatar or head for another role.
Martinez picked up the pieces after the quarter-final exit at Euro 2016 and while his predecessor Marc Wilmots was happy to give his players licence to roam, the 49-year-old's focus is on utilising tactics that, while allowing freedom, also provide cohesiveness.
The Spaniard's record in charge is good and having been unlucky in only reaching the semi-finals in Russia and the quarters at Euro 2020, he will be desperate to be the man to win Belgium's first ever major trophy.
While they might not be as star-studded as previous incarnations, there is still real talent in this Belgium squad and the headline act is De Bruyne.
As at Manchester City, De Bruyne is given license to find space and feed his colleagues with pinpoint precision.
The 31-year-old has grown into a real leader with the national team and his side will rely on him for inspiration, especially with the continued doubts over Eden Hazard's fitness.
The Belgian academy system continues to produce potential future stars, and the country's current leading light is Charles De Ketelaere.
Like Dembele, De Ketelaere combines a rangy build with fantastic skill on the ball and has shown since breaking through with Club Brugge that he can dominate games.
The 21-year-old scored his first goal for the national team against Italy last October, demonstrating he also has that vital edge that other young playmakers sometimes lack.
Belgium's predicted line-up (3-4-2-1): Thibaut Courtois; Leander Dendoncker, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen; Thomas Meunier, Axel Witsel, Youri Tielemans, Timothy Castagne; Kevin De Bruyne, Dries Mertens; Romelu Lukaku.
A lack of suitable full-back options have forced Belgium to employ a back three for a generation. However, that shape also allows them to tweak their attacking line-up, with De Bruyne capable of dropping into a holding midfield role if needed.
Martinez is a coach who is happy to change things game-by-game, fully aware that whoever he selects will be able to seamlessly slot in without disrupting the fast-paced possession-based football he craves.
The key for Belgium could be getting the ball to Lukaku. Despite his club woes, he usually thrives with the national team. With the right service, he can blow teams apart and is 16/1 to be the tournament's top scorer.
Belgium's hopes might not be as high as four years ago but they will still head to Qatar with justified confidence.
It is tough to see them not getting out of Group F, while they are 10/11 to match their last-eight showing at Euro 2020.
Can they go further? The draw will decide. A tough last-16 game is inevitable but that could then see them take on a team from the weaker Group H.
A semi-final appearance is priced at 5/2 and it looks like their path to the latter stages could be in their own hands.