Farewell then, to Belgium’s golden generation, who perhaps were doomed to futility as soon as they had been burdened with the name. Who knows what they might have been achieved if they hadn’t wasted so much time under the management of Marc Wilmots. At least with Roberto Martínez there has been the sense of them groping towards something like their potential. And they’ll always have Kazan, and one of the great World Cup performances, beating Brazil in a World Cup quarter-final.
The likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Youri Tielemans and one or more Hazards still have more to give, and there is great promise in Jérémy Doku, but Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini and Radja Nainggolan had gone already and nine outfielders in this squad are over 30. A wholesale clear-out, especially at the back is needed. But when all what remained was the fall, they fell gallantly, mounting a great late surge that proved this Italy can defend as well as attack, and produced probably the highest quality game of the tournament so far.