Aristotle once theorised the dichotomy of potentiality and actuality when analysing the human psyche. He claimed that potentiality is what could be, the essential essence of the power to effect change. Actuality is what manifests, the mode of being where things are brought about.
On the eve of the 21st FIFA World Cup, taking place in the tolerance capital of the world, Russia, the promise of Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ is the potentiality aiming to bring home the actuality of World Cup glory. Armed with their strongest ever major tournament squad, it is time for Belgium to turn promise into reality.
Having scored 43 goals and conceded just six in an unbeaten qualifying campaign, Belgium are now ranked third in the world and come into the tournament under a weight of expectation that has been four years in the making. Widely heralded since 2014, the current Belgium crop has, so far, underdelivered with eliminations at the quarter-final stage of both the last World Cup and European Championships two years ago, bringing a team of frightening individual talents back down to earth.
Possessing a devastating forward line of captain Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Napoli sensation Dries Mertens, Belgium have plenty of firepower heading to Russia. Behind them, one of Europe’s form men in 2017/18 with eight goals and 15 assists, Kevin De Bruyne, will be expected to unlock defences.
Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld and Thibaut Courtois provide the side with a rearguard mix of skill and experience extremely familiar to Premier League audiences. With one of the best squads on paper, there seems little to fault about Belgium.
But ‘Golden Generations’ inevitably come fraught with danger. England’s talented group of the mid-2000s struggled under the pressure of a tag that bears a heavy price, and this is not a Belgium squad without its cracks either.
With coach Roberto Martinez, having been publicly criticised by his own players for his tactics, it remains to be seen whether the former Wigan and Everton manager has the full confidence of the squad and if he is the right man to get the best out of them.
Do the players have the nerve? Martinez has outlined that mentality is the biggest area in which they need to improve. History always plays it part and the memories of failure against Wales in 2016 linger, but the very best sides still find a way to win.
It is also decision time for perhaps the most talented unit heading to Russia, Belgium’s neighbours France. After similar heartbreak two years ago, Les Bleus have the perfect chance to add a second world crown this summer with all their superstars.
For Belgium, though, it is now or never. If their ‘Golden Generation’ go the way of England’s, full of potentiality but eventually faltering, they will forever be remembered as chokers who could not deliver as a collective. If they live up to the hype with the actuality of tournament success though, they will turn theory into reality and make believers out of everyone.