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32 Teams of World Cup 2002 - Belgium
Sixth consecutive FIFA World Cup finals
When Michel D'Hooghe retired as president of the Belgian Football Association, he handed his successor a team that was in pole position to reach the FIFA World Cup final phase for the sixth consecutive time. Alas, in their final qualifying match, the Red Devils surrendered first place in Group 6 after losing to Croatia.
Since the Bosman ruling, many Belgian players have signed for foreign clubs, meaning that the majority of the current squad ply their trade abroad, primarily in Germany, the Netherlands and France. The domestic players come from Anderlecht (Glen de Boeck, Walter Baseggio, Yves Vanderhaeghe and Marc Hendrikx), Club Brugge (Gert Verheyen, Timmy Simons), Racing Genk (Wesley Sonck) and Standard Liege (Eric van Meir).
Still at the heart of the Belgian team is Marc Wilmots. Nicknamed "Mr. 1,000 Volts'' at his German club Schalke 04, the veteran midfielder twice stunned the footballing world by making a quick recovery after surgery in time to play in Belgium's last two FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Scotland and Croatia. His strong running, tackling and long-range shooting make him Belgium's biggest impact player in the central midfield role vacated by retired great Enzo Scifo.
The squad may see a new striker emerge over in the months leading up to the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, as forward Emile Mpenza, also of Schalke, will be out of action for some time with a groin injury. Wesley Sonck will stake a claim for Mpenza's place up front - the 23-year-old Racing Genk striker has been the revelation of the 2001-2002 season but lacks top-flight experience.
Significant past players:
Enzo Scifo, Michel Preud'homme, Frankie van der Elst, Eric Gerets, Jean-Marie Pfaff, Jan Ceulemans, Paul van Himst, Raoul Lambert
-- 4th 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico
-- 3rd UEFA European Championship Belgium 1972
-- 2nd UEFA European Championship Italy 1980
-- Winner Olympic Games 1920
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