To fix the Socceroos, follow the Belgium blueprint

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Will we see Socceroo smiles in Brazil? (Photo: Paul Barkley/LookPro)

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Although it appears the Socceroos are set to be coached by a local, the way to fix the problems left by the previous regime is to look at how Belgium became one of the most highly rated and promising sides in the world.

Belgium’s most recent World Cup was in 2002, but Romelu Lukaku’s double in their most recent qualifier has earned the Belgians a ticket to Rio. They favour as a nice roughie, but at No. 6 in the world rankings they can hardly be considered outsiders.

So what can Australia learn from Belgium?

Firstly, players need to be playing in top leagues.

The biggest issue many fans have of the current national team is that players are plying their trade in sub-par Middle Eastern leagues with little more than dollar signs on their mind.

If you look at the Belgium national side they have their players at top clubs across the world: Napoli, Chelsea, Everton, Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Tottenham, Bayern Munich, Zenit, Arsenal and both Manchester sides.

The problem with Australia is that one struggles to name five regular Socceroos consistently playing in a top European league.

But to get these players in quality clubs, the Belgians needed to first produce quality players.

The way Belgium produced these players was quite unique. The Belgian FA went to two of its biggest clubs, Standard Liege and Anderlecht, and convinced them to play a 4-3-3 setup across all their youth set-ups.

As a result, they were able to produce quality players.

The willingness of the two clubs allowed for the success of the system and Belgium went from having no wingers to four quality wingers.

The problem we face in Australia is that the youth set-up is not strong enough. We don’t have systems where players are consistently being produced from as young as 15 or 16 for the sole purpose of the national team.

The final part to the system is playing youth in the national side. Georges Leekens gave the players produced from the Belgian youth systems their debut.

The majority of the players were handed their debuts as a way of increasing their experience and getting them used to the system. Lukaku is just 20 years old and has 23 caps for his country, Eden Hazard has 39 caps and he is only 22, while Jan Vertonghen has an astounding 51 caps at just 26years of age.

This is where the Socceroos have failed in recent years – there has been zero focus on youth in the national team.

To make matters worse the current captain, Lucas Neil, is out talking about a lack of hunger among youth while Luke Wilkshire is saying the youth aren’t up to standard just after we were spanked 6-0 by the French.

The Belgians weren’t great at the start either, but they blooded their youth and are now poised to give Rio 2014 a good shake.

If Australia were to implement the Belgium blueprint, we may miss the next one or two World Cups.

But if we implement the system right, who knows? We might be in a similar position to Belgium and we might actually be able to set a higher goal than just getting out of the group stage.

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