Should Chelsea be concerned by Belgium’s Euro 2016 loss?


Belgium held the last contigent of Chelsea players remaining in Euro 2016. Should Chelsea FC be concerned by the Red Devils defeat against Wales?

The Euro 2016 quarter-finals showcased four very distinct types of football matches. The French demolishing the minnows from Iceland. A slow, boring match where Portugal needed penalty kicks to salvage a win. The Italy-Germany thriller, where both teams were worthy of meeting in the finals. And Wales’ surprise domination over Belgium.

Belgium entered the tournament as the dark horses of Euro 2016, with a team that was crowned the nation’s “Golden Generation.” Chelsea players Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois were among the most feted, along with ex-Blues Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.

The Welshmen outpaced and outclassed a Belgian defense riddled by injury and suspension. Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey (whose hairstyle was as surprising as his performances) galvanized their countrymen, who played as a dynamic team against Belgium’s roster of stars.

Since the loss, Chelsea signed Belgian international and Olympique de Marseille striker Michy Batshuayi. Batshuayi said that Hazard’s and Courtois’ encouragement strongly influenced his decision to join the Blues.

With so many Belgian internationals at Chelsea FC, should the club be concerned that the causes of Belgium’s underperformance will carry over to Stamford Bridge?

The short answer is no. The long answer is fortunately still no.

None of the three Chelsea players under-performed. Eden Hazard was Belgium’s only dangerous player up front. He took responsibility to lead the line, compensating for a very out-of-form and often-confused Lukaku. Batshuayi came on late and did not have enough time to make an impact. Thibaut Courtois found himself picking up the ball from the back of his own net three times, but merits little blame for any of the goals.

Kevin De Bruyne failed to protect the near post on the opening goal, allowing the cannon-like header from Ashley Williams to get past him. Radja Nainggolan, a player heavily linked to the Blues, spectated comfortably from a few yards back as Williams took the free header.

The second Welsh goal mocked the two Belgian centerbacks who let one man waltz around them and shoot straight to the top corner. In a similar fashion to Williams’ goal, Hal Robson-Kanu headed a ball flirting with the far post and out of Courtois’ reach.

Nainggolan’s partnership with Axel Witsel – another Chelsea transfer target – often devolved to both players being caught ball-watching. Nainggolan was reduced to the role of tourist many times during the game despite scoring Belgium’s lone goal.

All three goals originated from poor marking from players other than Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard or Michy Batshuayi. These elementary defensive lapses put some blame on coach Marc Willmots’ shoulders. The manager must ensure professionalism and concentration from his players on the pitch. The Red Devils’ complacency and distraction revealed an under-drilled and unfocused squad.

Belgium’s loss was a product of the Belgium team: disjointed, unmotivated, undisciplined. Three words that have never been applied to an Antonio Conte side. A team coached by Antonio Conte (or even Jose Mourinho , for that matter) would never be so prone to easy counterattacks, shocking defending and even more astonishing marking.

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As disappointing as Belgium’s loss may have been for Chelsea supporters, the defeat says more about Belgium than it does about Courtois, Hazard and Batshuayi. Chelsea can rest assured that Belgium’s experience will not follow these Belgians to Stamford Bridge.