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    Red Devils jostle for place in World Cup for 13th time

    © Belga
    Remembering history: Belgium's success at the 1986 World celebrated by the crowds in the Grand Place, on their return to Brussels.
    © Belga

    The Red Devils secured their ticket for the World Cup in Russia, on Sunday, by beating Greece (1-2) in Piraeus. Belgium will now take part, for the 13th time, in the major two-week tournament in 2018.

    Belgium participated in the first three World Cups, being 1930 in Uruguay, 1934 in Italy and in 1938 in France. Its road to victory ended in the group stages in 1930 (the last sixteen). It thus reached the following two subsequent rounds of its first match.

    Absent in 1950, Belgium qualifies for the final stage in 1954, in Switzerland. This is despite, in addition, a 4-all draw against England – the first match they haven’t lost. The Belgians leave the tournament after the group phase.

    We then have to wait until 1970 for the Belgians to be in the World Cup again. The first Mexican World Cup proves an historic event, as the Red Devils chalk up their first World Cup victory, against Salvador (3-0). However, once again, Belgium does not succeed in getting beyond the group stages.

    After coming to a halt in 1974 and 1978, Belgium finds its position amongst the footballing elite in 1982. Beginning with the golden age for Belgian football: the Devils jostle systematically in the table of the elite between 1982 and 2002, of course culminating in the semi-finals of the 1986 Mexican World Cup. The match defeats the former USSR and is followed by the penalty shoot-out against Spain and the return of the heros to the black, yellow and red backdrop in the Grand Place in Brussels. This has lived long in the memory of a multitude of Belgians.

    During in period in which Belgian football prospers, apart from 1998, the Belgians continue to succeed in getting through the group stages, before losing at the second round in 1982 and the last sixteen in 1990, 1994 and 2002. These eliminations prove a bitter pill to swallow. The most ardent supporters still remember the goal by David Platt in Italy, the penalty which was not given to Josip Weber against Germany in the United States, and the goal refused to Wilmots against Brazil in Japan.

    A player in 2002, Wilmots also goes to Brazil in 2014, where the Belgians reach the World Cup after failing to qualify in 2006 and 2010. The road to victory for the Red Devils ends in the quarter finals, or the second best result in the history of Belgian football. This was the first major tournament for the golden generation of Hazard, De Bruyne, Kompany, Courtois, and their fellow footballers. Four years later, the Devils will now fly to Russia with the sole objective of confirming the hopes which have been placed in them.

    The group draw will take place on 1 December in Russia. Belgium, the first European country to qualify in the field joins Russia, the host country, Japan, Iran, Brazil and Mexico, which have already qualified for the tournament.

    Christopher Vincent
    The Brussels Times