Belgium’s World Cup squad were welcomed as heroes in Brussels yesterday, after achieving their best-ever World Cup result in Russia, and were rewarded with the country’s national dish: A bowl of chips.
Victory over England at the weekend sealed third place for Roberto Martinez’s side, and bettering their fourth-place finish in 1986.
Thousands of enthusiastic flag-waving fans turned out, some climbing street signs and traffic lights to catch a glimpse of the players who rode in on open-top buses along the streets of central Brussels, before heading to Grand Place square.
After being treated to some fries, Belgium’s national delicacy, at the town hall, the team moved to the balcony overlooking the sun-drenched renaissance square, where thousands had been waiting since the early morning, clad in tricolour flags.
“When we were in Russia, we received many messages that you believed this team would make history. I hope we made you proud. We showed the world that we are Belgium,” Martinez told the crowd.
By scoring 16 goals in seven games, Belgium also forced an electronics retailer to refund the purchase price of flat-screen televisions for thousands of customers. The retailer had launched a promotion before the World Cup promising to pay out if Belgium scored more than 15 goals.
Hollywood star Will Smith performed the World Cup’s official song ‘Live It Up’ in the tournament’s closing ceremony in Moscow yesterday.
Smith was joined on stage by Nicky Jam, a US-born singer with Puerto Rican roots, and Era Istrefi, a pop singer, an Albanian Kosovar.
In the final sequence of the ceremony, opera singer Aida Garifullina performed Russian folk song ‘Kalinka’ accompanied by bagpipes, a children’s choir, and a percussion section that featured a guest performer: Brazil World Cup winner Ronaldinho, who for a few bars of the song hammered out the rhythm on an African drum.
England captain Harry Kane won the Golden Boot after finishing as the World Cup’s top scorer with Croatia’s Luka Modric winning the Golden Ball for being the player of the tournament.
Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard was the second best player, with France forward Antoine Griezmann third.
His French team-mate Kylian Mbappe won the young player award.
Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois was awarded the Golden Glove for being the leading goalkeeper.
Kane is the second Englishman to end as top scorer in a World Cup after Gary Lineker scored six in 1986.
Mbappe and Griezmann, who both scored in France’s 4-2 final win over Croatia, ended on four goals apiece.
Russia’s Denis Cheryshev, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku also scored four.