The current Belgium player pool is dripping with talent from Thibaut Coutois in goal through to Christian Benteke in attack and they’re as short as 12/1 fifth favourites for next year’s World Cup.
Sadly for them the arrival of a once-in-a-lifetime group of players has often gone unrewarded in the past, as these five golden generations demonstrate.
Croatia – World Cup 1998
Having only joined FIFA in 1992 after leaving the former Yugoslavia, Croatia were rejoicing a brilliant collection of players just six years later as the goals of Golden Boot winner Davor Suker got them to within spitting distance of the final.
By the time they reached their next international tournament in 2002 the likes of AC Milan’s Zvonimir Boban and West Ham and Everton rock Slaven Bilic had retired.
Turkey – World Cup 2002
Turkey surprised all and sundry when a side including stars like Hakan Sukur, Emre, Tugay, Rustu, Yildiray Basturk and Leicester City’s Muzzy Izzet claimed third place in South Korea/Japan.
Eventual winners Brazil squeaked past them by a single goal twice in the tournament, yet the Turks’ ascendancy was short-lived.
After eliminating their World Cup conquerors on the way to Confederations Cup bronze the following year they failed to qualify for the next two international tournaments.
Nigeria – Olympic Football Tournament winners 1996
A side including Celestine Babayaro, Taribo West, Jay-Jay Okocha, Daniel Amokachi, Kanu, Tijani Babangida and Sunday Oliseh shocked the world as they overcame Brazil in the semi-finals, coming back from 3-1 down to beat a side including Ronaldo and Bebeto.
They reached the second round of the World Cup two years later, but haven’t done so again since, even failing to qualify for the 2006 renewal.
Portugal – Under-20 World Cup winners in 1989 and 1991
It’s hard to argue with the Geração de Ouro title bestowed on a group of players that took consecutive Under-20 World Cups.
Players of the immense stature of Luis Figo, Rui Costa and former Barcelona frontman Joao Pinto came out of these teams, but despite reaching the Euro 2004 final those that graduated from the youth tournament-winning sides never lifted a trophy at full international level.
England – World Cup 2006
Expectations are usually misguided when the Three Lions rock up at a World Cup, but there were those that genuinely thought a generation including David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes and Joe Cole in midfield and a central defensive pool of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell could make their mark on the World Cup.
The quarter finals were their ceiling then and they’ve failed to to surpass such a finish since.