World Cup 2022: Belgium Player Profiles

The Belgium player profiles were written by Kristof Terreur (

He writes for HLN (


1. Thibaut Courtois

Date of birth: May 11, 1992

Place of birth: Bree, Belgium

Club: Real Madrid

Finally feels where he’s always dreamed to be: at the top of the world. The performance in the Champions League final against Liverpool in Paris will probably be his career highlight, along with the 2018 World Cup. Courtois says he has become half-Spanish in Madrid: “Since my arrival almost eleven years ago [at Atlético], I have always respected the culture, tried to learn the language quickly and feel like another Spaniard,” he said this year. “Madrid is my home.” Getting married to Mishel Gerzig, a famous Israeli model, next year.

12. Simon Mignolet

Date of birth: March 6, 1988

Place of birth: Sint-Truiden, Belgium

Club: Club Brugge

Is likely to be voted the best player in the Belgian league in 2022 come January and has really flourished after his return to the country of his birth after a topsy-turvy six years at Liverpool. Has been a crucial and calming influence at Club Brugge as they won the title in 2022 and stormed to the top of their Champions League group. His 14 saves without conceding against Atlético Madrid was the most in the tournament’s history. Ambassador of his own coffee brand – 22, named after his squad number.

13. Koen Casteels

Date of birth: Jan. 25, 1992

Place of birth: Bonheiden, Belgium

Club: Wolfsburg

If you had asked the youth coaches at KRC Genk in 2010 which of their goalkeepers would become the best in the future, they would most certainly have said Casteels instead of Courtois. He was always ahead of Courtois at the Genk youth sides but the intelligent goalkeeper has simply suffered injuries at all the wrong moments. The quiet leader has had good assistance close to him, though, as his brother is a very respected physio. A respected name in the Bundesliga he has been at Wolfsburg since 2015 and played more than 200 games for the club.


2. Toby Alderweireld

Date of birth: March 2, 1989

Place of birth: Antwerp, Belgium

Club: Royal Antwerp

“Each day I come closer to the home where I was born” reads a tattoo on Toby Alderweireld’s arm. Well, he’s finally home. The former Tottenham defender left his hometown club, Antwerp, at the age of 15 for Amsterdam and suffered badly from homesickness. After a short spell in Qatar, he signed for Antwerp this summer and he is set to finish his career there too . He is happy to be so close to his family again. In 2021 he became the face of an anti-bullying campaign in Belgium that saw him send out 1,000 bracelets to young people encouraging them to think twice before making negative comments. The year before there was a petition for a statue of the defender replacing one of Leopold II in Ekeren.

3. Arthur Theate

Date of birth: May 25, 2000

Place of birth: Liège, Belgium

Club: Rennes

A mere two years ago Theate was being rejected by third division clubs in Belgium and was considering quitting football. Then he got a trial at Oostende, where he impressed and after a successful loan spell at Bologna he was suddenly the subject of a £17m transfer to the Ligue 1 club. Scored on his debut for Bologna in a 6-1 defeat at San Siro and told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “My parents were there, as was my grandad. It felt like life had given be a big kiss. But obviously I wasn’t smiling when we got to the dressing room – we lost 6-1.” Says he likes Carles Puyol because of his “badness” but that his only role model is his father, Jean Michel, who played for RFC Liège.

4. Wout Faes

Date of birth: Apr. 3, 1998

Place of birth: Mol, Belgium

Club: Leicester City

Highly coveted from a young age, Chelsea sent him a shirt signed by David Luiz on his 16th birthday and ever since then he has been compared to the Brazilian, due to the similar hairstyles no doubt. Faes is not keen on the comparison, however, and has no regrets over not joining Chelsea at the time. Anderlecht did not think he would make it, however, and Faes was sent on several loan spells before finally leaving the club in 2018. Since then he has gone about proving them wrong. Likes to go fishing with his uncle and to read. He has read all seven Harry Potter books, twice. “I’m a big fan,” he told the Guardian in September. “I love the stories so much. My favourite one was the Half-Blood Prince. I saw that Harry Potter World is near London and that is on our list to visit very soon.”

5. Jan Vertonghen

Date of birth: Apr. 24, 1987

Place of birth: Sint-Niklaas, Belgium

Club: Anderlecht

Vertonghen never thought he would return to the Belgian league, and neither did his family. But, on the final day of the transfer window last summer, the former Spurs defender joined Anderlecht from Benfica in search of more playing time before the World Cup. The family, who had settled really well in Lisbon, were devastated; his son in tears on the plane on the way home. Vertonghen is Belgium’s most capped player and wants to continue for as long as possible, but he is not getting any quicker. A huge fan of cycling who counts Greg Van Avermaet as one of his sporting heroes.

15. Thomas Meunier

Date of birth: Sept. 12, 1991

Place of birth: Sainte-Ode, Belgium

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Before Meunier became a professional footballer he used to be a postman, and it is fair to say that he (pretty much almost) always delivers. He also worked at a warehouse while playing semi-professional footballer at Virton. But once he signed for Club Brugge he has never looked back. After four seasons at PSG he moved to Borussia Dortmund in 2020, where he is playing regularly. A major art lover, the wingback used to have a picture of Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory as a screensaver on his phone. “Being a postman is much harder than you would expect,” he told the Players’ Tribune in 2018. “In fact, the next time you see the postman coming to your house with the mail, you should open the door and give them a smile. Maybe offer them a cup of tea or something. Because they have surely had a hard day.”

21. Timothy Castagne

Date of birth: Dec. 5, 1995

Place of birth: Arlon, Belgium

Club: Leicester City

The tireless, versatile defender has not had the best of luck with head injuries down the years. Having already had surgery on his eyes as a child he suffered a clash of heads during Euro 2020 which left him with a broken eye socket. He had to undergo surgery for almost six hours and said: “If the impact had been 3 centimeters higher my career would have been over,” he said while his mother, Clarence Verougstraete, added: “Normally Timothy stands up straight away, but not then… I saw his face and knew it. It was very emotional. We really wanted to see him. It was necessary. I cried a lot, and so did his sisters.” In his third season at Leicester now since arriving from Atalanta.

26. Zeno Debast

Date of birth: Oct. 24, 2003

Place of birth: Halle, Belgium

Club: Anderlecht

The teenage centre-back made his Belgium debut in the Nations League this autumn and is seen as the future of the Belgium defence. It could have been very different though as he grew up as an attacking midfielder and had Cristiano Ronaldo as his idol. Debast is very skilful, charismatic and physical but could do with spending some time with someone like Sergio Ramos to add some more aggression to his game. When asked by Jan Vertonghen who his favourite ever Red Devil was he naturally replied: “Jan Vertonghen” with a laugh before admitting that it was perhaps Kevin De Bruyne with a special mention for his former coach at Anderlecht, Vincent Kompany.


6. Axel Witsel

Date of birth: Jan. 12, 1989

Place of birth: Liège, Belgium

Club: Atlético Madrid

Grew up in a suburb of Liège adoring Zinedine Zidane but became a far more defensive player than his hero. At the age of 33 he has found a new challenge in playing for Diego Simeone at Atlético after a summer transfer from Borussia Dortmund, starting the first few games in central defence. Fought back from a ruptured achilles to play for Belgium at Euro 2020 and is often praised by his managers for his game intelligence. Ha tried several business ventures, including producing wines and having his own fashion label. His investment in an aviation company and attempt to gain a pilot’s licence did not prove successful, however.

7. Kevin De Bruyne

Date of birth: June 28, 1991

Place of birth: Drongen, Belgium

Club: Manchester City

His friends call him “the tumble dryer” for his dry sense of humour but beneath the calm, boyish exterior lurks a serious competitor. He completely changes personality when he goes on the pitch. He is still calm, but ultra competitive. It does not show on the tests, however. According to the player himself, when they do saliva tests to test stress levels before City games, his always come back below zero. Was a huge fan of Michael Owen when he grew up and cried his heart out when Argentina beat England on penalties at the 1998 World Cup. Famously got his two-footedness from being so good with his right and destroying the flower beds that he was only allowed to use his left.

8. Youri Tielemans

Date of birth: May 7, 1997

Place of birth: Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, Belgium

Club: Leicester City

Has a blue belt in judo and was very good at basketball as a youngster, but he was always likely to choose football in the end. Incredible to think he is still only 25, he missed out on a transfer to Arsenal this summer and has ended up fighting against relegation at Leicester. In happier times he scored a wonderful winner in the FA Cup final in 2021. Roberto Martínez is a big fan, and said as much after the Nations League win over Poland in June. “He is incredibly versatile and showed that today. He was able to create and find space in between their lines. He gives us great balance.”

11. Yannick Carrasco

Date of birth: Sept. 4, 1993

Place of birth: Vilvoorde, Belgium

Club: Atlético Madrid

A natural born winner, he is inconsolable even when losing a game at cards. Always knew he wanted to be a professional footballer and told his teachers that at school. Almost a veteran now and in his second spell at Atlético and is approaching 60 caps for Belgium, he told Pickx+ Sports what his club coach, Diego Simeone, really doesn’t like: “He hates backheels. That’s something he really doesn’t like.What does he like? Ah, when you sprint back and recover the ball with a clean challenge.” Is married to a former Miss Belgium and Miss Universe, Noemie Happart, and they have a son together.

16. Thorgan Hazard

Date of birth: March 29, 1993

Place of birth: La Louvière, Belgium

Club: Borussia Dortmund

The younger Hazard is 29 and has played more than 220 Bundesliga games but this season has been a struggle so far with most appearances coming from the bench. Thorgan, however, is a jovial character who likes to take the mickey out of his brother Eden and his teammates. He is named after a fictional character – Thorgal Aegirsson – who was born on another planet and was raised by vikings after his spaceship crashed on earth. Has been called “Toto” by his coaches and teammates for some time now, despite not being too enamoured with the sobriquet. “Well, it is not the best nickname is it?” he said when interviewed by BVB TV, “but then you don’t often get to choose your nickname.”

18. Amadou Onana

Date of birth: Aug. 16, 2001

Place of birth: Dakar, Senegal

Club: Everton

A strong and energetic midfielder who was never really rated in Belgium. Anderlecht let him go and Zulte Waregem were reluctant to pay for his train tickets but he did not let the rejections get him down. He kept believing and his sister, Melissa, who is now his agent, made a video compilation of what he could do and sent to several clubs. Hoffenheim liked what they saw and signed Onana in 2017 – and he has never looked back. “My sister had cancer and she got me a trial,” he told The Times. “She had just gone through chemo, had the infusion bag attached, her head shaved. All those things that we’ve been through — that’s my fuel, man.”  He joined Hamburg, then Lille and this summer arrived at Everton in a £31.50m deal.

19. Leander Dendoncker

Date of birth: April 15, 1995

Place of birth: Passendale, Belgium

Club: Aston Villa

The midfielder grew up on a farm and had to clean the pigsty among other duties so he knows what hard work is – and that shows on the pitch as well. “It’s very nice, I think, for a child to be able to grow up on a farm. There’s a lot of space to play with my brothers and I had to help my father quite often,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “I saw what he was doing every day, it was really tough for him so I have a lot of respect for what he did.” His father even made a football pitch for Dendoncker and his two brothers. “The best thing he ever did,” says the Belgian. After three years at Wolves, he moved to Aston Villa in the summer. Likes to keep a low profile and has no social media accounts. His versatility is a bonus for Roberto Martínez as he can play in both defence and midfield.

20. Hans Vanaken

Date of birth: Aug. 24, 1992

Place of birth: Pelt, Belgium

Club: Club Brugge

The subject of sustained interest from West Ham this summer, it looked like the Club Brugge vice-captain would move to England but in the end – and after the Belgian club’s fans unfurled a huge banner saying “Stay Hans, don’t go” – he decided to remain the club he joined in 2015. Vanaken, a tall and stylish attacking midfielder, has twice been voted Player of the Year in the Belgian league, has a dry sense of humour and likes typical Flemish music. He once featured in a famous quiz on Belgian TV “The Smartest Human in the World” although sadly he did not win. Has five goals in 22 caps for Belgium going into the World Cup.


9. Romelu Lukaku

Date of birth: May 13, 1993

Place of birth: Antwerp, Belgium

Club: Inter Milan

“Big Rom” is one of the best centre-forwards in the world when on form and 68 goals for Belgium in 102 appearances going into the World Cup is a terrific record. However, the fact remains that the two big transfers in his career – to Manchester United and then to Chelsea – have failed to work out. He was on the top of the world when he joined Chelsea for £97.5m in the summer of 2021 but he fell off a cliff and is now back at Inter on loan. He feels appreciated in Italy and the feeling is mutual, among fans and sponsors and he is a brand ambassador for Calvin Klein. Has struggled with injuries in the leadup to the World Cup.

10. Eden Hazard

Date of birth: Jan. 7, 1991

Place of birth: La Louvière, Belgium

Club: Real Madrid

A former star that is not shining anymore (or at least not at the moment). His dream move to Real Madrid has turned into a bit of a nightmare because of injuries. And even when his fitness problem seemed to have been solved with surgery, he is not getting much playing time by his coach at Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti. Despite all the problems he is still very much a loved person in the Bernabéu dressing room for his positive demeanour. Now has five sons – they could well be one hell of a five-a-side team. In the national team Roberto Martínez still counts on the 31-year-old.

14. Dries Mertens

Date of birth: May 6, 1987

Place of birth: Leuven, Belgium

Club: Galatasaray

The adopted Napolitano had tears in his eyes as he left his second home last summer to join Galatasaray after nine mainly marvellous years in Naples. He became so popular that street art was made to honour his performances. He has kept his apartment in the city and often goes back when he has a few days off. His son was given the nickname he acquired in Naples: Ciro. A big dog lover, he once told Bleacher Report: “You know a dog loves you for who you are; they don’t know if you’re a soccer player or not. Sometimes people treat you good because you’re a footballer or because you’re famous, but a dog doesn’t know it. So maybe that’s something I really like about them.”

17. Leandro Trossard

Date of birth: Dec. 4, 1994

Place of birth: Maasmechelen, Belgium

Club: Brighton & Hove Albion

Steadily building a reputation in England, just like he did during the covid lockdown when he built a Lego replica of the Taj Mahal, assembling all 5,923 pieces. “I was thinking: ‘What can I do to pass the time?’” he told the Guardian, “so I went to search some Lego things and came up with that. It was quite fun, to be honest.” A quiet and unassuming character he likes to spend time with his family, including son Thiago, who asked him to celebrate his goals by making goggles in front of his eyes with his hands. Is close to becoming a regular starter with Belgium and has six goals in 11 Premier League goals this season at the time of writing, including a hat-trick at Anfield.

22. Charles De Ketelaere

Date of birth: May 10, 2001

Place of birth: Bruges, Belgium

Club: AC Milan

After an outstanding season for Club Brugge in 2021-22, Milan made De Ketelaere one of their major signings for the current campaign. It is fair to say that the young Belgian has had an up-and-down start to his time in Italy. He has been compared to the Brazilian Kaká but also missed a sitter against Monza and went straight down the tunnel after the game rather than celebrate the win the fans. His manager, Stefano Pioli defended him afterwards: “We must respect the growth and adaptation times; of course he was disappointed, but it was not easy to score that chance. Being a little down in the dumps is normal, but he has everything we expected.” A hugely talented tennis player, one of the best young prospects in Belgium, his favourite sport was football and wanted to follow in his hero Ronaldo’s footsteps. Can play in all positions in attack.

23. Michy Batshuayi

Date of birth: Oct. 2, 1993

Place of birth: Brussels, Belgium

Club: Fenerbahce

His stock may have fallen somewhat and he is no longer seen as the youngster with lots of potential but he remains a free spirit and is an appreciated member of the Belgium squad, always likely to brighten the mood by turning up in one of his daring outfits. He loves fashion – as well as characters such as Batman and Spongebob – and some say that he is better on social media than on the pitch these days but that seems harsh, especially as he has got off to a good and free-scoring start at Fenerbahce.

24. Loïs Openda

Date of birth: Feb. 16, 2000

Place of birth: Liège, Belgium

Club: Lens

The fast, versatile striker had the opportunity to choose between playing international football for three countries: Portugal, Morocco and Belgium. He rejected overtures from the Moroccan FA to plump for Belgium, the country of his birth and where he got his football education. A Club Brugge youth system graduate he joined Lens this summer after a productive season on loan at Vitesse in the Dutch league in 2021-22.

25. Jérémy Doku

Date of birth: May 27, 2002

Place of birth: Antwerp, Belgium

Club: Rennes

A player with blistering pace, exquisite dribbling skills and outstanding acceleration, Doku had some impressive moments during Euro 2020 but whenever he appears to be on the cusp of greatness he seems to get an injury that slows him down. Now at Rennes he was wanted by Liverpool a few years ago. He even met Jürgen Klopp and Mo Salah and Liverpool saw him as a natural replacement for Sadio Mané. However, he stayed at Anderlecht before moving to Ligue 1 in 2020.

The Canadian Premier League is proud to be part of the Guardian’s World Cup 2022 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organizations from the 32 countries who qualified.