Should Benteke or Lukaku get the nod for Belgium?

Despite the likes of Germany, Brazil and Spain being favourites for next summer’s World Cup, Belgium is a nation well and truly on the footballing radar.

A golden generation of exhilarating talent has come out of the woodwork for the country over the last 24 months, with many tipping Belgium to take some stopping in Brazil.

One of the main problems for national boss Marc Wilmots will be deciding who to play in his starting XI, with the central European nation possessing top options in almost every position.

The most tricky decision may well be who to play in attack, as Belgium arguably have two of the brightest young strikers in world football at their disposal in the form of Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku.

Belgium have predominantly used the popular 4-2-3-1 formation during their qualifying campaign, which allows the deployment of a host of midfield talent but only one of the two powerful strikers.

With the likes of Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini, Mousa Dembélé, Kevin De Bruyne and Kevin Mirallas to provide the attacking emphasis from attacking midfield and wide areas, the system makes sense.

However, surely the partnership of Lukaku and Benteke together in attack would be the dream combination?

Benteke has been a star at Aston Villa since moving to England from Genk last summer, and was arguably the reason why Paul Lambert’s men were not battling relegation last term.

The 22-year-old was devastating power and pace, but also an excellent first touch and awareness of those around him. Add to this a lethal strike rate for the Birmingham-based club, and it is understandable why Benteke is being touted as a transfer target for some of Europe’s top teams.

José Mourinho’s decision to allow Lukaku to spend another season on loan away from Chelsea is slightly perplexing, especially given the way he has taken to life at Everton.

The 20-year-old former Anderlecht prodigy looks destined to be a world-beater, with many Premier League defences failing miserably to contain the man labeled as the ‘new Didier Drogba’.

Christian Benteke and Romelu LukakuDespite the individual exploits of the pair at club level, they very rarely play together in attack for Belgium. Both were on the field for roughly 15 minutes of their side’s 2-0 defeat to Colombia this week, but Wilmots stated that he thought “nothing was going to happen” while the pair played alongside each other.

The problem seems that Benteke and Lukaku are too similar. Both are your stereotypical number nines; fast, strong and direct. Both like to be the main man in their side and playing the pair together could nullify the attacking threat of two top-class strikers.

As such, Wilmots has a decision over who to start at the World Cup – presuming they are both fit and available.

Wilmots seems to favour Benteke, with the Villa man starting against Colombia and also in seven of Belgium’s ten World Cup qualifying fixtures. Lukaku started two qualifiers while Benteke was injured, while the pair were both on the bench for the first game against Wales.

Despite Belgium’s dominance in Group A to make it to Brazil, both players actually only netted twice in the qualifying process. Neither have outstanding goal returns internationally, with only 11 goals between them for their country in 39 collective appearances.

As such, it appears that the lone striker in the Belgium system is there not predominantly to solely score goals, but to be a link-up man and bring others into the game.

This may well be why Benteke gets the nod at the moment, as his ability to hold the ball up, technique and vision could be deemed slightly superior to that of Lukaku.

Regardless of whom Wilmots opts to play from the start next summer, Belgium are sure to be a massive threat.

Plenty of countries would love to have one, nevermind two strikers of Benteke and Lukaku’s ability, and their internal competition should be to the benefit of both players and the national side.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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