By John Essien
Following another international disappointment, Kevin De Bruyne has claimed that Belgium lacks the competitive edge to out-do Italy and France, despite sitting aloft the FIFA world rankings and parading an array of talent.
The Red Devils again missed out on an opportunity to land a major silverware, as Roberto Martinez’s side could only muster a fourth-place finish at the UEFA Nations League finals.
However, they remain the No 1 side on the planet in the official rankings, but De Bruyne claims Belgium does not possess the depth required to achieve success.
The Manchester City midfielder told HLN after suffering a 2-1 defeat to Italy in the Nations League play-off: “We did well at times against some top teams and had many new faces who did more than a decent job today.
“It’s good experience for them to be able to play against opponents of this calibre, but unfortunately we lost twice. With all due respect, playing against Estonia is not the same thing and these challenges are necessary for us to grow, both as individuals and as a team”.
He added: “With all due respect, we are ‘just’ Belgium. It’s a new generation, we were missing Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard today, so we have to be realistic about the team we have. Italy, France and Spain have 22 top players to choose from and we do not.”
Since 2014, Belgium has entered every major tournament among the favourites, owing to the availability of talented players like De Bruyne, Lukaku, Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Axel Witsel and Dries Mertens.
They have however, progressed beyond the quarter-final stage just once at the last four competitions, with a third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup.
Meanwhile, Kylian Mbappe was the hero for France scoring a late winner, as the World champions came from behind to win the Nations League with a 2-1 victory over Spain in the final on Sunday.
Mbappe netted with 10 minutes remaining, as France was again forced to fight back, just as it had done in the semi-finals against Belgium.
There were few chances in a cagey final in Milan, but the match burst into life shortly after the hour mark.
Moments after France hit the woodwork, Mikel Oyarzabal fired Spain in front but its lead lasted less than two minutes before a magnificent finish from Karim Benzema.