Belgium are No1 in Europe but will they freeze once the going gets tough? | Paul Doyle

Marc Wilmots undoubtedly has the players but getting them to gel in the European Championship is the big challenge

The most peculiar thing about Belgium’s status as the best team in the world, which is how Fifa classed them between October and April (when they were leapfrogged by Argentina), is that they achieved it without beating anyone really strong in a competitive match or even regularly looking like a team, at least not one familiar with the notion of synergy. That is why they are not many people’s favourites to be crowned European champions even though Fifa still has them pegged as the continent’s top side.

Belgium could triumph but they could fail in the first round like an extremely knowledgable University Challenge team who cannot find the buzzer. A squad with undoubted gifts remain a puzzle. The lineup for their first match – against Italy on Monday – is hard to predict and their performance level even harder. Marc Wilmots and his players need to answer several questions quickly if they are to avoid being chomped by a vicious sense of what might have been.

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