Belgium had no trouble booking their spot at next summer’s European Championship despite some concerns following their 2022 World Cup exit.
Failure to get out of Group F — finishing behind eventual semi-finalists Morocco and Croatia — saw Roberto Martínez exit the Belgium hotseat after six years at the helm.
The former Wigan and Everton boss, now in charge of Portugal, had overseen what many considered as the nation’s ‘golden generation’ but they were unable to bring home any silverware.
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His replacement, Domenico Tedesco, has made subtle changes but retained some key personnel — though many are in their respective twilight years. With that being said, there’s been an injection of new blood, thoroughly showcased as the Red Devils topped Group F after winning six of eight matches and only dropping four points.
Romelu Lukaku, who bagged a Euro qualifying record 14 goals, doesn’t carry the attacking load by himself especially with exciting young wingers Jérémy Doku and Johan Bakayoko coming through. Doku, 21, swapped Rennes for Manchester City in the summer and it’s so far been a fruitful decision.
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He is statistically the best winger in the Premier League right now. Including his two Ligue 1 appearances, Doku has completed more take-ons per 90 minutes than any player across Europe’s top seven divisions this season with a minimum of 250 minutes played (5.41 per 90).
Doku also created league history when he became the youngest player to have five direct goal involvements in a single match with one goal and four assists against Bournemouth, aged 21 years and 161 days. Furthermore, he tied the Premier League record for most assists in a match.
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) November 20, 2023
Doku was on hand to provide two assists in Belgium’s impressive 5-0 win over Azerbaijan to closing Euro 2024 qualifying. Starting on the left-flank, centre-forward Lukaku was also supported by Johan Bakayoko who continues to make a name for himself at PSV where he’s already struck twice across 12 league outings and created six more for the Eredivisie leaders.
Much like Doku, Bakayoko dribbles for fun. If we look across the Champions League, Europa League and Europe’s top seven divisions, 20-year-old Bakayoko is one of only four players to complete 30+ take-ons and create 30+ chances from open play this season, alongside Leroy Sané, Ousmane Dembélé and Florian Wirtz.
But when focusing on assists provided across those competitions, Bakayoko has produced seven – one more than Doku – while only Wirtz (9), James Ward-Prowse (9) and Xavi Simons (8) have accumulated more, which hasn’t gone unnoticed with a slew of clubs reportedly keeping tabs on him.
Chances are Bakayoko will depart Eindhoven next summer but not before playing in a first international tournament where he could prove decisive for Tedesco’s men.