Belgium has not appeared at a major international championship since the 2002 World Cup.
Belgium's vibrant young team is preparing to launch its World Cup campaign against Algeria on Tuesday with competition hotting up on the training pitch ahead of the Group ‘H’ clash.
Seen as dark horses to lift the trophy, the richly talented squad is blessed with players such as Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard, powerful striker Romelu Lukaku and Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany.
Belgium has not appeared at a major international championship since the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea but it impressed in qualifying and will fancy its chances of matching its semifinal showing in Mexico in 1986.
The sole survivor from its 2002 campaign is veteran defender Daniel van Buyten, who said there were some feisty tackles flying in during the team’s training sessions in the build-up to the match in Belo Horizonte.Coach Marc Wilmots can also call on young Manchester United sensation Adnan Januzaj and his club teammate Marouane Fellaini as well as Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, outstanding while on loan at Atletico Madrid last season.
Belgium, also grouped with Russia and South Korea, is expected to qualify for the knockout rounds with ease but Manchester City captain Kompany urged caution over the chances of unseating football's superpowers.Despite its impressive playing resources, Belgium will come up against a side looking to cause an upset of its own to go alongside its shock win over eventual finalist West Germany in 1982.
Despite that famous win, Algeria, taking part in its fourth World Cup, has never gone beyond the group stages.
Key players for the North African side include defender Madjid Bougherra, midfielders Sofiane Feghouli and Medhi Lacen, and forward Islam Slimani.
“We have a young group which has talent, but is lacking a bit of maturity,” said assistant coach Nourredine Kourichi. “Match after match this team is growing, you could see it (in friendlies) against Armenia, Slovenia and Romania
“We know that the first match is important, not vital, but important especially for confidence. The group is lacking a bit of experience but they are fearless and they have one important weapon: speed.
“We’re going to try to trouble this Belgian team, we're ready for it and we've done everything possible to prepare ourselves.”