Hazard, the end of an era with Belgium; Roberto Martínez's future in the air
Belgium's quarter final defeat to Italy signals the end of the 'golden generation' with several players now over 30. The coach might not continue.
Belgium's painful quarter final defeat to Italy at Euro 2020 signals the end of a golden generation of players. Hazard and Co. were knocked out of the tournament earlier than expected. After eliminating Portugal in the Last 16, Belgium seemed set to do the same to Italy last night but it wasn't to be.
The generation of players including Eden Hazard, one of the best group of player's in Belgium's history, will be dismantled after Euro 2020, for some, it could be their last major tournament. And surprisingly, they have not won any silverware or reached a final. They have reached the quarter finals three times (2014 World Cup Brazil, Euro 2016 and Euro 2020) and the semi-finals once - at 2018 World Cup Russia.
The position of those who are already over 30 is particularly striking - among them is Eden Hazard. He turned 30 at the start of the year and now faces a dilemma - he must decide whether he wants to continue with the national team in their bid to qualify for next year's World Cup or focus on getting back to his best form with his club.
Hazard's case is particular as he is a player who is prone to injuries. His struggles to be fit have affected Madrid and Belgium, who were without him last night after he suffered a muscle strain in the Last 16 clash with Portugal.
Roberto Martínez's future
Apart from Hazard, the futures of several other Belgium internationals are in doubt. The defence will need to be rebuilt - Vermaelen (35), Vertonghen (34) and Alderweireld (32) are getting close to the end of their careers but so far, there seems to be no younger players coming through. Other players whose time with the national team could be include Mertens (34) and Witsel (34).
The defeat to Italy has even put Roberto Martínez's position into question. After the game, he refused to confirm whether he will continue in the job or not: "I'm not really in the mood to answer that," he told reporters. Some media outlets, including La Gazzetta suggest the Belgium's elimination from Euro 2020 could signal the end for the Catalan coach.