We continue to hear that Belgium’s golden era is coming to an end, but on the evidence of Monday’s victory over Finland, the future does not look bad at all.
While Thomas Vermaelen, Axel Witsel and Eden Hazard may be nearing the end of their international careers, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois will go nowhere anytime soon.
The peaks of Youri Tielemans, Jason Denayer and Leandro Trossard are yet to come. Against Finland, the latter duo looked like skilled international players, who could give the film their world-class talent in the upcoming tournaments.
And then comes through all this the fast-growing Jeremy Doku.
Rennes forward has only turned 19 years old but caused more problems for the Finnish back line than Hazard and Lukaku in the early stages and marked their sixth international start with a number of bright, explosive dribbles that made Jere Uronen guess.
A switch from right to left halfway through the first period saw him find more space, as he took a Kevin De Bruyne pass in his step, found a yard on Jukke Raitala and fired one at the far post that required a full stop from Lukas Hradecky.
• Jeremy Doku • Rennes • Belgian • 19 years
Having already been dropped six times by the world’s top international team, you probably do not need us to tell you that he is a wonderful talent! ?
Welcome to our 21, @JeremyDoku ??
– 90min (@ 90min_Football) 5 June 2021
He moved back to the right when the second half began, and with Belgium knocking on the door, his wild pace break showed too much for the Uron to handle – especially with the inefficient De Bruyne spoon feeding through balls straight into his path.
Time and time again, he found space in the inner channel, picked up the ball and teased the opposite wingback before sending a searching ball in.
By the time he was replaced, he had completed three important passes – more than any other Belgian player than De Bruyne, who of course collected seven – and had left another lasting mark on the international stage.
Jeremy Doku is the first teenager to play for #BEL at Euro since Enzo Scifo 1984 ✨ pic.twitter.com/0KTZAoRzHY
– CBS Sports Golazo (@CBSSportsGolazo) June 21, 2021
The match-winning moments for Belgium came from more well-known sources. Thomas Vermaelen nods across the line before Lukaku’s late strike seals Group B, but it was a huge encouraging performance from Doku that only increased his growing reputation as one of European football’s hottest prospects.
With the 19-year-old on the rise and a supportive role of younger players available to support De Bruyne and Lukaku in the years to come, we may not yet be witnessing the end of Belgium as an international force.
Before we start looking at the future, however, there is the rest of Euro 2020 to keep a close eye on. With the help of Doku’s latest impressive display, Belgium has stormed through Group B with a 100% record – and you would not bet that they have some cutlery to show because it will be on 11 July.