Hoppin' around Europe... for now.

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How are PoPa doing?

Not too bad: PoPa league history

Just one more Finnish title since I left there, but always there or thereabouts. They're in the lead now as well, halfway through the current Finnish season.

Not much progress in Europe - they haven't made it to any group stage yet.

So I guess they pretty much stalled a bit, but that was always the most likely outcome. I'd say the fact that they never finished lower than 6th is already impressive. Guess I left them in good shape. :)

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Sept. 13, 2023

Belgium update:


Switzerland - Belgium: 2-1

An August friendly against one of our opponents from World Cup Qualifying two years ago. We got six points against them then, but this time they came out ahead. Not by much, it was a very even game, but we weren't nearly effective enough in front of goal.

Another debut for us in this match: Leonard Schreuder, another young right back who will hopefully evolve into a decent enough player for the national squad.

Euro Ch'Ship Qualifying:

Belgium - Ukraine: 3-0

Ukraine were named as favorites for this match, and they were on a record-breaking 13 match undefeated streak, so this was a very satisfying result. Also because of the 6-3 ass-whooping we got in Ukraine.

It was pretty much a must-win match - yet again - as well, so it was nice to see that our early chances were converted, for once, giving us a comfortable and deserved three goal lead at half time. We were a bit less effective and dominant in the second half, but played out the match easily enough.

Iceland - Belgium: 0-2

A much less comfortable match to watch, as our early chances were not converted this time, and the clock kept ticking. But eventually Henry Solou found himself with a meter of space in a penalty area with lots of Icelanders, scoring his third Belgium goal of the week and his 20th in his career.

Not the prettiest match, but job done.

Another immigrant joined our ranks in these two matches: Juan Tuzzio hails from Argentina, but was brought to Standard by yours truly as a 19 year old and now immediately becomes our nr.1 DMC. He already got himself suspended for our last group match, but despite that, he should be a very useful addition for years to come. That was a good signing five years ago. :)


Looking good, but the job is far from done.

Ukraine will almost certainly win the group, as their last match is against Iceland. Three teams can still finish in second place. Obviously we're in the best position for that, but we'll still have to get a result in our last match, at home against Portugal. Depending on the other matches, a draw might be enough, but it's quite possible we'll simply need to win it.

Meanwhile, the draw for the next World Cup Qualifying campaign - about a year away - has been made as well:


Our iffy results of the last year and a half dropped us down to 3rd seeds for this draw, but despite that we can't complain at all about this group. Portugal and Serbia as first and second seeds could have been much much worse - especially considering Portugal's unconvincing performances in the current Euro Qual campaign.

Though hopefully I won't regret that last half-sentence next month...

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What are these international sides like in 2023? IRL I would expect Andorra to be whipping boys, Belgium, Portugal and Serbia to be the top 3, Kazakhstan and Latvia to fill the remaining two. Do you think you can topple Serbia for 2nd?

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Yeah, that's pretty much my assessment as well. I hadn't looked at them closely yet though (since I'll have to qualify for the Euros first or I'll probably get the sack.) :)

The World Rankings of that group at the moment:

8th - Portugal

20th - Serbia

42nd - Belgium

71st - Latvia

120th - Kazakhstan

193rd - Andorra

Obviously the World Rankings aren't the entire story. Portugal are highly ranked after finishing 3rd in the '22 World Cup, but their current qualifying campaign has been iffy. Perhaps because Ronaldo is now 38 and unemployed and no longer part of the recent selections - though still captain. (Tried to sign him at Dortmund this summer, actually, but he snubbed me, heh.)

Serbia didn't make it past the group stage in the World Cup, but it looks like they'll be qualifying for the Euros again. (Though with Poland and Belarus as main opposition in their qual group, so hardly a huge shocker there.) They have a pretty good squad, perhaps a little bit stronger than Belgium at the moment, but hardly unbeatable.

So I'd say it'll be a pretty open battle between the top three. The difference between topping the group and finishing 3rd will be in the details.

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Well, hopefully you can pull a bit of an upset and sneak in :)

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Haha, yeah. In our optimal "everybody healthy" selection we have 7 guys who only became Belgian in their mid-twenties. Plus a couple of guys who may get the occasional cap in case of injuries etc. So that's a decent chunk, but still plenty of "real" Belgians remaining. :)

Oct. 18, 2023

Belgium update:


Estonia - Belgium: 1-2

A few days before our important match against Portugal, so an important part of this friendly was about giving some guys a bit of match rhythm, a few others some rest etc. Nevertheless, we played quite well, despite going a goal behind early in the match. Lukaku and Mulder quickly turned the match in our favor within the first 15 minutes. After that we had several great chances to extend our lead further, but the Estonian goalkeeper had a great day.

Would have been nice for morale to score a few more goals, but ultimately this was a fairly relaxing friendly.

Euro Ch'Ship Qualifying:

Belgium - Portugal: 2-2

While we were off to Estonia, the situation in the group became much simpler for us. Portugal won their match against Slovakia, which put them one point behind us. In other words, a draw in our last match was enough to qualify directly.

I had high hopes for Romelu Lukaku, who scored against Estonia and reached his 100th cap here, but he had to go off injured after a half hour. His replacement, Juan Mascia, did well though, breaking through the defense on speed - rare for him, he's not that fast - and finishing coolly.

Unfortunately we couldn't cheer long. After a scramble in the box the ball fell in front of a Portuguese foot. And when a corner kick goal put us a goal behind with 15 minutes to go, I didn't think it would be our night - it had been a bit of a low-action match, with very few decent chances on both sides. But a lovely 30 yard cross found Mario Mulder unmarked just a few meters from goal with just a few minutes to go. A jump-up-and-punch-the-air moment if there ever was one.


And so we qualify for Euro 2024 directly, leaving Portugal to deal with the 3rd place Playoffs. That's a big relief. It'll be my first major international tournament - it's about time. :)

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Nov. 22, 2023

Belgium update:


Poland - Belgium: 3-3

Hungary - Belgium: 3-2

Well, I guess this was pretty much the start of our preparation towards Euro24. Hardly a successful first test. We should have won both of these matches, based on the balance of play.

The issues which these two friendlies clearly highlighted were hardly surprising ones though. It's been clearly apparent over the past year and a half: after the retirement of guys like Kompany, Vertonghen, Vermaelen, Alderweireld and a few others, our defense quickly turned from our strong point into our weak point.

At the moment we have one right back - Toquinho - and two center backs - Boyata and Busão - who are of a sufficient level to deserve a spot in Belgium's national squad. The rest really isn't good enough and falls into the "best we've got" section. Two of those three are Brazilians - don't even want to consider where we'd be without them. The other one, Boyata, is about to turn 33.

In case of injuries to those guys, as was the case for two of them for these friendlies, our defense is about as reliable as a nylon condom.

Case in point: due to these injuries, two new players made their debut for Belgium this week: Lamine Diallo and Nordine Riviere. Still young and with some progression margin in them, but not really the quality of player to rely on in a major tournament.

I guess the only thing to do is hope for more South Americans looking for a new home. Or ride it out until a new generation of defensive top talent arises. Don't think that'll be any time soon though.

Our only hope for Euro24 will be to score lots and lots of goals.

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Plenty of time to get things together.

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Aye, if we're at full strength it's not too bad. If not, we just have to be a little bit lucky on the day that we score more than concede. :)

The group draw for Euro 2024 has been announced as well:


Obviously there are no "easy" groups at this stage, but for being seeded 4th, I'm really quite pleased with this group draw.

We've gotten results against Portugal recently, so we know there's a chance there. Scotland and Israel are ranked 17th and 24th in the world, which is higher than us. Obviously their results have earned them those rankings, but still. These are all teams we can beat on a good day or lose to on a bad day. We have to head out there with the goal to survive the group stage.

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England's group has 'group of death' written all over it. You'd normally expect all 4 of those sides to make it through, but obviously not this time.

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Yep, England's group is the toughest. Ours and Poland's are probably the easiest groups - or the most "open", if you will. The other groups are fairly normal.

Barring extraordinary circumstances - like a bunch of key injuries or something - I'll be disappointed if we don't survive the group stage there.

Dec. 27, 2023

Dortmund, mid-season update:


Mid-season table

A very solid season so far, if not for one major slip-up at the end. We lost a penalty shootout in the German Cup against Second Div. team St.Pauli. A few of our key players got to sit this one out, but that's no excuse. It was one of those typical matches where the ball just didn't want to go into the net.

One slip-up in the league as well, a match we really shouldn't have lost against Karlsruhe. Our other Bundesliga loss can hardly be described as a slip-up though. Bayern whooped our ass fair and square; we were pretty much nowhere against them. It was still early in the season then, though. Hopefully we'll put up more of a fight after the winter break.

With half the season gone, the current league standing seems like a pretty fair assessment of our strength. We've felt like the strongest team against pretty much every opponent except Bayern, so it's only logical that the season is shaping up to be a two horse race. So far we've been a little more consistent than Bayern, but not entirely flawless, so it's not unlikely that our direct confrontation with them will turn out to be a key match.

We're doing fine in Europe as well. Initially I figured our group with Juventus, Espanyol and Sparta Prague would be another very open group, but as it turned out Juventus and us were clearly the strongest of the group, with Espanyol becoming the slightly surprising whipping boys.


Hopefully we'll overestimate our next Spanish opponents as well, as we'll be facing Valencia in the next round. Not too bothered about Europe at this point though. Winning the title will be the main goal.

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The draw for the Euros definitely gives you a fighting chance :thup:

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March 6, 2024

Belgium update:

It's March, so my (international) focus is firmly on the Euro Ch'Ship now, where we can indeed start with a bit of ambition. In that respect, we organized this Spring friendly against an opponent with some quality.

Belgium - Russia: 2-2

Russia wasn't nearly as strong as I had expected. Which makes it a bit disappointing that we didn't manage to win this match. Offensively we were by far the better team, though it wasn't a great match by any means. We went much too easily for the often-harmless long shot, though we did manage a few good chances in between those, and efficiently converted two of them.

At the back, we didn't give away too many chances, but Russia equalized twice through set pieces - a corner kick in the first half, and a stupid penalty deep into injury time. We had to play with two of our backup center backs today; hopefully we can avoid these sort of goals when we're at full strength at the back. Which now also includes a new Brazilian left back who recently became available, but he was injured for this match, so his debut will have to wait a few more months.

I did give one other player his senior debut in this match: Nordine Hajji, a young striker. Not immediately someone who'll likely play a big role in the Euros, if he even gets selected. But he's been scoring freely and winning all sorts of awards in the Belgian Pro League, so it was time to give him his first cap to aid his development. We'll likely need him in the not too distant future.

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Not a bad result to be fair though.

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Very true, though losing or drawing matches we should have won is a trend I'd like to break asap. :)

May 12, 2024


Borussia Dortmund, German Bundesliga, end of season 2023-24


Media prediction: 3rd

Final position: 1st

German Cup: 3rd Round

Champions League: Quarter Final

Mid-season table

End of season table

Position graph

Well, that went rather smoothly. At the mid-season point it looked as if we might be headed for a tight title battle with Bayern, but it didn't turn out that way.


It didn't become a tight race, firstly because Bayern dropped a few points early after the winter break, but mostly because we were pretty damn close to flawless.

When we beat Bayern in early February - almost as smoothly as they had beaten us early in the season - we extended our lead from 6 to 9 points. The gap stayed like that for a long time, even past the point where we dropped our only points this half-season, the draw against Leverkusen. But in the last month of the season, Bayern's form completely plummeted while we remained flawless, and so we end up winning the league with a staggering 21 point lead.

Quite a successful debut season in the Bundesliga. Certainly didn't think it would be this easy.

The Cups...

Our one major disappointment this season was the German Cup - 3rd Round exit against a Second Division team. Quickly put that behind us and do better next year.

A bit of a mixed feeling about the Champions League, but mostly a positive one after a brilliant comeback against Valencia. We lost 0-1 at home, one of those matches which we should have won convincingly. Then we went 3-1 behind in Valencia - that one was a fair half time score, we were kinda poor. But then we played a crazy, brilliant second half and turned it around to 6-3.

Ajax seemed like an ideal Quarter Final opponent to progress another round, given the other potential opponents we could have drawn, but that was only on paper. On the pitch, they simply outplayed us, especially in Amsterdam. Losing 4-1 there was perhaps a bit harsh, but not by all that much. No miracle comeback this time; we were by far the better team at home, but had to settle for a scoreless draw in a second leg which we started without a lot of hope anyway.

Squad & tactics

Hardly brain surgery. Most of the players were already here. I just signed a quality goalkeeper, plus a few of the backups and reserves, and put them in a straightforward 4-4-2. I'm a bit surprised that the season went this smoothly, actually. But heck, a nice easy season once in a while isn't a bad thing.

Just a few of our key players:

Sinan Eroglu - AMLC

As I pretty much predicted at the start of the season, Eroglu was a key part of our attack and became our assist king this season. The difference with or without him in the line-up is clearly noticeable. This is just the type of player who creates chances for his team, over and over again.

Kevin Volland - ST

Our almost-veteran striker was just one of three strikers who performed consistently well this season. Volland was the least proficient goalscorer of the three, but he did contribute regularly with assists as well, so he remained a bit more of a first pick, while the other two were on a bit more of a rotation. Due to his age, that balance may change next season though.

Niklas Neumann - ST

One of the other two striker, and our topscorer this season, despite not playing nearly every match. Apart from his physical stats, he doesn't look at all impressive on paper, but he's just one of those guys who goes out there and scores goals. Luckily his request for first team football, fairly early in the season, came at a point when one of the other strikers just got a 6 week injury and I could give Niklas a "what the heck, I'll give you a chance" promise - otherwise I would probably have decided I could find a better one and would have promised him he could leave at the end of the season.

Next season...


Decent enough season, mostly thanks to our Champions League performances. A bit of profit; not enough to suddenly put us in the rich clubs list, but all profit is obviously a step in the right direction.

We might have to spend a bit more this summer than last year, though. Several of the quality backups and squaddies have been promised they can leave this summer and will have to be replaced.

I suppose that's not surprising when at a club of a certain level, but the players here seemed a bit more naggy than average. Not just about wanting first team football, also about training workloads, and there were some tiresome morale issues during team talks as well. (Obviously manageable given our results, but it did make me worried what would happen if we hit a stretch of poor form.)

These small issues, along with a slightly boring "easy" season, have made that I really haven't clicked with Dortmund as much as I would have liked. In other words, if an interesting offer comes up this summer, I might be moving on already. Only if it's an offer during the off-season though; once next season starts, I'll most likely stay on until the end of the season. Which I wouldn't totally mind either. Perhaps the squad-building I'll have to do this summer will make me a bit more involved and attached to Dortmund.

Then again, I'll have other things on my mind this summer as well. Final preparation for the Euro Ch'Ships start soon...

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Thanks. :)

June 15, 2024

European Ch'Ship 2024 (Hosts: Spain)

Right then, here we are. I've been more excited about the prospect of this tournament all season than about winning the title with Dortmund.

Our preparation friendlies of the past few weeks:

Belgium - Albania: 4-1

Belgium - Romania: 1-1

Malta - Belgium: 2-5

Spain - Belgium: 3-1

No huge shocks here, the results are pretty much within expectations. On the one hand our offensive display is encouraging, though a bit more clinical finishing would not be a bad thing. On the other hand our defense remains a bit iffy at times, and it's slightly worrisome that we didn't manage to keep a clean sheet in any of these matches, despite having a few easy)ish opponents in there like Albania and especially Malta.

We finished with a real test match against the hosts, but that didn't turn out very well. Luckily they got a man sent off, so we managed to avoid a total morale-crushing heavy defeat.

I didn't really have many difficult decisions to make during these friendlies with regards to ideal starting line-up etc. There are a few positions - in goal and up front - where we have a few "equally strong" options, but for the most part the choices are pretty clear.

We can start the tournament pretty much at full strength as well. Just one player misses the tournament through injury, our nr.2 DMC, Collin. In his place, I decided to go for experience: Radja Nainggolan.

I eliminated everyone who was 32 or older from potential international selection 2 years ago, but with Nainggolan I came back on that rule once or twice throughout qualifying in case of injuries. Didn't think he'd stick it out this long, but as he still plays an active role in the Man City squad, his selection here certainly isn't a stretch. He'll start on the bench, but he'll almost certainly break the 100 cap benchmark during this tournament.

Our starting XI for the opening match against Portugal: (barring last minute injuries)



Thibaut Courtois - pretty much on par with Thomas Kaminski, who played the occasional match the past few years, but in the end I decided to stick with the guy with the most international experience. I guess it's not a bad thing that we have the option to switch if needed, though.


Toquinho - DR

Gilberto - DL

Two Brazilians as our full backs. On the right, Toquinho has been part of the selection for almost 4 years now. Gilberto, on the other hand, has only recently received his Belgian passport and made his debut against Albania. The backups for their positions are 22 and 20 respectively, and not quite ready yet, so these two foreigners nicely fill a void in the selection for a few years.

Busão - DC

Dedryck Boyata - DC

One more Brazilian in the center of our defense, alongside one of our veterans, Boyata, who's been in the shadow of guys like Kompany, Vermaelen etc. for many years but now becomes the key of our defense for the last years of his career.


Juan Tuzzio - DMC

No Brazilian but an Argentinian for a change, who joined our ranks less than a year ago. I have high hopes that he'll play a cracking tournament in one of the most important positions of our 442-diamond.

Raymond Zuiderwijk - MR

Mario Mulder - ML

Despite their Dutch-sounding names, these two are 100% Belgian. Kinda nice how I have a history with these two: both part of my Belgium U21 selection early in my career, signed them both to Standard a few years later, and now they're both an integral part of the Belgium setup.

Zuiderwijk has been a Belgium regular for many years, and is our vice-captain now. Mulder's international career suffered a bit because of other quality options for many years - Hazard, Chadli etc. - but he became our first choice left mid as soon as I took charge almost 4 years ago. He made a big transfer to Chelsea last January, hopefully that inspires him to great performances in this tournament.

Eden Hazard - AMC

One of our other veterans who certainly isn't over his top yet - recently voted Footballer of the Year in the Premiership after a great season at Man City. His international form isn't always consistent, but hopefully he can extend his Man City form to the Euros and play a key role for us.


Romelu Lukaku - much like the GK situation, Lukaku is pretty much on par with Juan Mascia for the second striker spot. Neither of them scores particularly often, so I tend to give Lukaku a small edge - because of his physical presence, but also because he happens to be our captain for this tournament.

Henry Solou - undisputed first choice alongside one of those two, Henry scores like a machine for us (more goals for Belgium than for Genoa this season, in fact.) If we're to have any chance in this tournament, we'll need Henry to stay on target.

We play Portugal, Scotland and Israel, in that order. Not ideal, but I suppose it doesn't matter all that much. Surviving the group stage will be the goal. Anything beyond that is a bonus.

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June 26, 2024

European Ch'Ship:

Portugal - Belgium: 1-0

Belgium - Scotland: 0-1

Israel - Belgium: 2-2

Well, that's that. What an anti-climax...

After all that worrying about our iffy defense, it was mostly our attack which failed us here. Both against Portugal and against Scotland, we deserved more.

The match against Portugal was fairly even, but we had by far the better chances. But we failed to put one away, while they scored a lovely placed 20 yard shot, neatly in the top corner, unreachable for any goalkeeper. That one moment of class which decided the match.

Against Scotland we went a corner kick goal behind before the match even started. After that we were admittedly not strong enough to elevate the match beyond the "frustrating midfield battle" level. But again we managed to create a few great chances, except they were either squandered by our forwards or, in two cases, denied by the woodwork.

The only match where we can't really complain about the result was the one against Israel. We had to win it, and preferably by several goals, to stand a chance of scraping through as one of the best 3rd placed teams. It looked good for a while, as Marcão gave us the early goal, but Israel demonstrated some quality with a few slicing attacks, so after 90 minutes I could only be pleased with a draw here - at least we avoided going home with 0 points.

This was an open group, and we played three fairly even matches. A few tiny details differently here and there, and the results could have been very different. In the end, we didn't play as well as I had hoped we would though. Especially the Scotland match was a let-down - sure, we deserved more from that match, but we should have been strong enough to force the issue, woodwork or no woodwork.



No real surprises in the group stage, except perhaps Ukraine, who topped our qualifying group but were as poor as us here in Spain.

The Belgian FA expected us to reach the Quarter Finals, so they're not exactly pleased about our performance here - understandably. My job doesn't seem to be in immediate danger though, still at 50%/stable. I think I'll have to wait until the end of the tournament to be absolutely certain, but it looks like I'll be able to stay on for the next World Cup Qualifying campaign.

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Scotland winning their group is a surprise.

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