Belgium will officially be the best team on the planet when the next FIFA world rankings are released.
That may surprise many, even though the vast talent at their disposal includes Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne, who scored this pinpoint free-kick in tonight’s 3-1 Euro 2016 qualifying win in Israel.
De Bruyne, who has now netted in six of his last seven games for club and country, also combined with Dries Mertens for Belgium’s first goal. Chelsea winger Eden Hazard added the third on 85 minutes.
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Victory for the Red Devils ensured them top spot in Group B ahead of Wales, and will also see them leapfrog Argentina and Germany to the summit of the FIFA rankings, as The Telegraph reports.
Marc Wilmots’ starting lineup comprised of eight English-based players – with Tottenham Hotspur pair Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld joining Man City captain Vincent Kompany in defence.
The rest were Manchester United battering ram Marouane Fellaini, Everton striker Romelu Lukaku and Simon Mignolet, whose Liverpool teammate Divock Origi came on as a second-half substitute.
The Premier League’s top clubs are flooded with Belgian stars, but their place atop the international game upon November’s update of the standings may be greeted with cynicism in some quarters.
After all, the 2014 World Cup was the first major tournament that Belgium had reached in 12 years, and their underwhelming run to the quarter-finals did not suggest that they were primed to conquer.
But the nature of the rankings system means that a qualifying campaign in which they failed to beat Wales and drew with Bosnia-Herzegovina, and friendly wins over the likes of Tunisia, Slovakia and Luxembourg, count for more than Germany and Argentina reaching the final in Brazil last summer.
They will become the eighth team – after the aforementioned duo, Brazil, Spain, France, Italy and Netherlands – to top the rankings and the first nation to do so never having won a major tournament.
Perhaps Euro 2016 arrives perfectly for Belgium’s golden generation to correct that anomaly, although world champions Germany, holders Spain and hosts France may all be considered more likely winners.
In the meantime, Belgium are pretenders to the crown, not world-beaters yet, and FIFA need to reform their ranking system soon, before they really embarrass themselves and England somehow end up top.
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