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Fast-qualifying, star-studded Belgium team to watch in 2018 World Cup


Faster than any European side.

That was Belgium’s best depiction after they managed to be the first side from the continent to reach 2018 Word Cup proper in Russia.

Roberto Martinez’s side did it after downing hosts Greece 2-1 over the weekend at Stadio Georgios Karaiskaki in Piraeus.

Jan Vertonghen scored the opener in the 70th minute but the count was levelled three minutes later when Portugal-born playmaker Jose Zeca netted for the hosts.

Manchester United star Romelu Lukaku headed in the winner in the 74th, delighting even the home fans.

It was Lukaku’s 10th goal of the qualifying campaign.

As hulking striker set landmarks, teammate Thibaut Courtois also made his 50th international appearance for Belgium but the goalkeeper was unable to provide a clean-sheet to accompany his milestone appearance.

After that victory, Belgium now tote an unassailable eight-point lead over second-placed Bosnia and Herzegovina at the top of Group H with two games remaining.

They joined Brazil, Mexico, Iran and Japan, along with the hosts who automatically qualify, in the draw for the finals next year.

Belgium were unbeaten in qualifying, with seven wins and a 1-1 draw at home to Greece in March.

They also have scored 35 goals and conceded just three in a group where they were considered as the overwhelming favourites.

The winners of the nine European groups qualify directly to World Cup 2018 and the best eight runners-up play off for four more places.

Belgium missed defender and team captain Vincent Kompany after he took a knock in their 9-0 win over Gibraltar on Thursday while Hazard started on the bench.

In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Belgians reached the quarterfinals where they were beaten by Argentina 1-0 on Gonzalo Higuain’s 8th-minute.

With their new-found confidence after advancing for the Russia campaign, Belgium will be one of the sides to watch in 2018 World Cup.

Captain Eden Hazard will lead Roberto Martinez’s star-packed squad who are currently ranked 9th in the world by FIFA.

Aside from Lukaku, Vertonghen and Hazard, Belgium also boast of Marouanne Fellaini, Kevin De Bruyne, Moussa Dembele, Courtois, and Kompany among others.

With a roster like that, Belgium will be a big thorn on the side of their opponents in 2018 World Cup.