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A Glimpse of the Golden Generation: 10 years ago, I launched a duel against the Orange Red Devils |  Red Devils

A Glimpse of the Golden Generation: 10 years ago, I launched a duel against the Orange Red Devils | Red Devils

A turning point in the history of Belgian football. After years full of disappointments, the Red Devils beat big neighbor Holland in 2012 with a talented young team. Ten years later, it turned out to be the birth of the golden generation. Vital Borkelmanns, former assistant coach, looks back.

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August 15, 2012.

A new era began to emerge at King Baudouin’s court – at that time it was not certain whether one would be filled with success.

Marc Wilmots coaches his first official international as a national coach, after two games on a temporary basis. The great baptism of fire is immediately an interesting encounter. The Netherlands will travel to Brussels to attend a training derby towards the World Cup qualifiers.

At that time, the Orange team demonstrated the established values ​​of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart. Belgium previously had promising talents who really had to prove themselves. To give you an idea: Kevin De Bruyne was still playing for Werder Bremen, and Thibaut Courtois had just finished his first year abroad.

However, the stadium has an atmosphere of optimism. “Our Generation is Our Dream” reads a large banner in front of the competition. Devil’s First Challenge – Remember Them? – To color the country red is very welcome.

So the party hasn’t even started yet. “A story I will never forget,” Vital Borkelmans begins his story with nostalgia. It was the match that restored confidence in the national team.”

It was his first international match with Marc Wilmots officially as national coach, right next to him was Vital Borkelmanns.

Borda shirts

Because make no mistake about it: Holland was once hugely favourite.

“I still remember that Dutch coach Louis van Gaal was very arrogant before the match,” recalls Borkelmans. He made fun of Belgium, but then we were with a young, emerging generation. With Drieske, Defour, Vertonghen and Alderweireld…”

It was understood that the Netherlands were not worried about the Belgian national team. The Red Devils have not attended a major tournament since 2002. The FIFA rankings had to be scrolled for a long time to find our country. sponsor our shirt? Anonymous Borda – typical for that time.

But Robben, Schneider, van der Vaart and their companions were already surprised by a young and fast Belgian team. Dries Mertens, who was still active in the Eredivisie in Eindhoven, crowned himself the match winner with a goal and an assist of 2.

It was Benteke who started the Belgians’ festive evening, but Holland fought back in the match. They even took the lead shortly after the break.

Then the boys against Holland noticed that they had many qualities together as a team.

Vital Borkelmanns

Borkelmans: “Then 1-2, we suddenly saw a shift. We started putting in high pressure, letting the ball spin really well and creating a lot of chances.”

In five minutes, the Belgians went from 1-2 to 4-2. Top scorers: Lukaku, Mertens and Vertonghen – at the same time all the players who have participated in more than 100 international matches.

“I think 4-2 is one of the toughest pandas we’ve ever given the Netherlands,” Borkelmans said.

Although it was just a training match, the match had a huge impact. “The boys noticed then that they had a lot of qualities together as a team,” Burkelmanns says. “It gave a mental boost to the World Cup qualifiers. You must not forget that we were actually a underdog in our group. Croatia and Serbia were the favourites.” .

The Red Devils eventually qualified as group winners for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. “After that qualification, the outside world started looking at us differently. There was real hype around the national team. The stadium was always full and at the World Cup we suddenly took everyone into account.”

The rest is history.

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