Euro 2020 Special

FIFA World Cup 2022: What Went Wrong For Belgium, Germany and Uruguay?

Spain have become the latest football giant to exit from the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, with Morocco becoming the first North African nation to reach the quarterfinals in the tournament’s long history. The relentless rise of Asian and African talent in football might not have fetched them any trophies so far, but they are threatening to end the domination of European and South American nations in international tournaments, especially at the World Cup.

Spain now join Belgium, Germany and Uruguay in the list of high-profile early exits, with attention now turning to the downfall of once major powers in the game. Let’s take a look at what went wrong for each of these teams in the FIFA World Cup 2022 tournament:


Belgium’s Golden Generation Comes To An End

Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ entered the tournament with high hopes – this was perhaps their last chance to bring an end to their finest generation with a triumphant win. For most of the last decade, Belgium were the top-ranking side in the world, boasting the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. Eight of Belgium’s all-time most capped players were in the World Cup squad, showing the once-in-a-generation talent that they would find hard to replicate.

Roberto Martinez brought unity and a spirit of collectiveness to the squad, implementing vital changes that saw them reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018, only the second time they have managed to do so. But in Qatar, the team as a whole failed spectacularly – perhaps the most surprising underperformance by any side. A 1-0 win over Canada was all they could manage in the group stages and failed to rise to the occasion in their final game against Croatia.

Age was certainly a factor in Belgium’s disappointing performance – with much of the squad reaching their prime way back in 2018. Belgium’s starting XI had an average age of 31 years for their final game against Croatia – the oldest for any side at a World Cup in more than a decade. Belgium’s all-time goalscorer Romelu Lukaku is just 29 but has been terribly out of form for the last two years.

Roberto Martinez has also been blamed for his failure to put together a coherent strategy for a team full of individual talent. Reports of a toxic atmosphere within the dressing room did not help matters either, with players coming out in the open about their concerns regarding the squad.

Many of Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ players are unlikely to play in another World Cup. With no trophies to their name, Belgium will look back at the past decade as one of missed opportunities.


Complacency Costs Germany

Germany have failed to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup for the second time in a row, despite beating Costa Rica 4-2 in their final game. The four-time champions started the tournament on a wrong note by suffering a defeat to Japan and managed to follow it up with a dull draw against Spain.

Blame for Germany’s failure has been squarely placed on their manager Hansi Flick’s tactics. The Germans were lazy on the field most of the time in their game against Japan, wasting away a one-goal lead by underestimating their opposition. Frequent changes in the defensive unit did not help with the stability of the squad, and the lack of a frontline striker bothered them throughout the qualifiers.

Hansi Flick’s future with the German national team is now being called into question, with DFB’s sporting director Oliver Bierhoff already resigning taking responsibility for the team’s disastrous campaign. Criticism has also been directed at focus on off-field activities – from controversies around the armband to the role of excessive family time in making the players complacent.

But there are much deeper issues to be sorted out – especially at the ground level. Germany have fallen behind other European nations in attracting young talent towards the game. Any reforms that were instituted would take years to bear fruit. The likely retirement of Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer and Ilkay Gundogan will further hurt the team in the short run before a new generation takes over.


Uruguay’s Misery Continues

Uruguay got nothing wrong in the tournament. At the same time, they got nothing right either. Placed in a highly competitive group with just one place up for grabs, it was always supposed to be a tough path for the South American side. But luck and margins did not favour Diego Alonso’s side, with refereeing controversies continuing to haunt their fortunes.

Uruguay’s problem has always been maintaining the delicate balance between experience and youth – with the likes of Luis Suarez eager to play every game for the national side. While a loss against Portugal was widely predicted and accounted for, it was the tactical mistakes in their opening fixture against South Korea that ultimately cost them a spot in the knockout rounds.

Darwin Nunez looked barely comfortable from the left wing, and Uruguay waited too long to make a push. That they had the capacity to all-out right from the start was evident in their final game – with Giorgian de Arrascaeta scoring twice for the South Americans in the first half in a must-win game.

Ultimately, it was margins that led to Uruguay’s elimination. Diego Alonso has blamed their exit on a denied penalty against Portugal – with a last-minute goal by the South Koreans sending them out of the World Cup. Several players are also now likely to face disciplinary action for their outbursts on the field.




Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.