As a team that hasn’t quite hit the heights expected of them just yet, Belgium have done remarkably well to make it to the quarterfinals of this year’s World Cup. The Red Devils did play their best game yet, however, when they overcame the USMNT in extra time thanks to a big contribution from Romelu Lukaku from the bench.
The bench play has been a big factor for Belgium since the tournament began, and head coach Marc Wilmots deserves a lot of credit for using his options wisely. Although, the options he does have are a luxury you would have to concede. Against the USMNT, Belgium had Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas, Mousa Dembele, Nacer Chadli and Adnan Januzaj all awaiting the call to enter the game at any time.
In the group stage, Marouane Fellaini, Dries Mertens and Divock Origi all came off the bench to win the game against Algeria, and it was Origi again who came off the bench to win the following game against Russia. Against the U.S., Origi got the start this time, with Lukaku dropping to the bench and the roles reversed as Lukaku came through to win the game from the bench this time.
But is the bench play spectacular or the starting lineup just not getting the job done? You would have to say both, but the starting lineup can vastly improve on what they have produced so far which should be a scary thing for their competitors. The starters will surely improve yet again from the U.S. game, and you just know the bench will be a factor.
Whether that bench will be enough to overcome Lionel Messi and Argentina in the next round is yet to be determined, but either way, the Belgium backups are one of the biggest weapons of this year’s World Cup.