Five Belgium under-21 stars pushing for World Cup inclusion

The golden generation of Belgian football has come to fruition, with the central European nation qualifying for next summer’s World Cup at a canter and a dark horse to excel.

Competition for a spot in Marc Wilmots’ squad to head to South America will be fierce, with Belgium boasting a plethora of players at top European clubs.

Despite the amount of quality in the squad that qualified for next summer’s tournament, there appears to be considerable ability coming through the youth ranks also.

With a host of young Belgian superstars of the future making their way in the European game, here are five that could well force their way into the star-studded senior squad if they continue to live up to early promise.

Dennis Praet

Dennis PraetA mercurial attacking midfielder, Praet has represented his nation all the way through from under-15 level to the current under-21 squad.

The 19-year-old has been a virtual ever-present in a transitional Anderlecht team this season, playing in the Champions League against top opponents as well as prospering domestically.

This is his third season playing senior football for Anderlecht, despite his age, and it appears only a matter of time before he outgrows his homeland and follows the bulk of his illustrious countrymen in moving to one of the top leagues in Europe.

Having been involved in the national set up since under-15 level, Praet looks certain to play for Belgium’s senior side in the future. Whether it is in time for the World Cup remains to be seen.

Thorgan Hazard

In the shadow of his world-class brother Eden, the 20-year-old is showing this season that he has the potential to be just as good as the first-choice Chelsea winger.

On loan at Zulte Waregem from the Stamford Bridge club, Hazard junior has caught the eye with his devastating incisiveness, skill on the ball and eye for goal.

The attacking midfielder has netted an excellent nine goals and provided eight assists from midfield in 15 domestic appearances this term in a wonderful start to the campaign.

He has one cap to his name after being used as a substitute in a recent friendly, but if the playmaker keeps up his current excellent form he has every chance of going to Brazil.

Youri Tielemans

Youri TielemansThe youngest of the five contenders, Tielemans is still only 16 but has potential in droves. Despite his age he has already broken into the Anderlecht first team this term, and became the third youngest player to play in the Champions League recently.

A box-to-box midfielder with excellent technique and a solid work-rate, the sky really is the limit for Tielemans. Already the European scouts are sniffing around the teenager.

After eight goals in ten games for Belgium under-16’s, he has been fast-tracked to the under-21 squad already.

Yannick Ferreira Carrasco

Despite the summer splurging of his club, Monaco, this young Belgian commands a regular place in the high-flying Ligue 1 side’s starting XI.

He has started more games this season than the likes of João Moutinho or James Rodríguez, and operates predominantly on the left of midfield.

Still only 20, if he keeps up his current good form for club, he could well force his way into the national reckoning.

Zakaria Bakkali

Zakaria BakkaliThis teenage sensation shot into the limelight with a hat-trick in only his second ever appearance for Eredivisie giants PSV Eindhoven.

The 17-year-old is versatile enough to be used as either a winger or in attack, and had the option to either represent Belgium or Morocco – selecting the European nation.

Bakkali has a lot of development to do before becoming as good as some of the top Belgium attacking players at the moment. He has already been handed one senior cap for his nation, and is in Wilmots’ squad to face Colombia and Japan over the next seven days.

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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