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Totti Today: Becker & The Belgians

Not the name of a 60s Motown band, but an interesting clash in the WC quarterfinal this Friday

AS Roma v AC Chievo Verona - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

So, Brave Little Belgium narrowly escaped the harakiri from Japan like a plane just evading a crash into the rough waters of Pearl Harbor and progressed to the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Russia. There they will face Brazil, one of the favorites and packed with outrageous talent. But Belgium’s got a pretty decent squad as well so it sure is gonna be an extraordinary fixture. It’s definitely the most beautiful one of all four quarterfinals. I mean, c’mon, England-Sweden? Russia-Croatia? Didn’t think so...

On Friday a lot of football stars will grace the green pitch: Hazard, De Bruyne, Courtois, Mertens, Lukaku, Paulinho, Neymar, Jesus, Marcelo, Thiago Silva and Firmino to name a few. However, one name will always melt some Roman hearts in an instant: Alisson Ramses Becker. After Costa Rica, Serbia, Switserland and Mexico, the Brazilian keeper will now probably face his toughest task of this tournament so far.

Ruiz, Ljajic, Mitrovic, Seferovic, Shaqiri, Vela and Lozano are all good strikers. They are their countries biggest hope for goals. But what Alisson will face on Friday is a different beast. Another category. It’s time for Alisson to show his true skills to the world in Brazil’s hardest game of the tournament.

That’s right, Belgium might be the toughest team left for Brazil on the road to glory, as France or England don’t impress me much (why do I suddenly think of Shania Twain?). Uruguay just lost Cavani while Croatia might be a dangerous outsider but they nearly went out after penalties against an average Denmark. On top of that, only their midfield is on par with the big boys.

No, only Belgium can and will put up a fight. Hazard and De Bruyne are two of the Premier League’s finest players and world class. They can change a game in a heartbeat, just watch Hazard vs Tunisia or De Bruyne during the 3-2 goal against Japan. Dries Mertens is always a threat and his goal tally for club and country since 2016 speaks volumes. Lukaku already has five goals this WC and is a force of nature, almost unstoppable.

Then there are the dangerous headers of Kompany and Fellaini, the runs of Meunier and Chadli and the talented Tielemans and Batshuayi on the bench. All this firepower while Alderweireld, Vertonghen and Courtois guard the castle at the back. It sure is a golden generation, one which will try to accomplish something grand before they retire.

For many of them this could be the last opportunity to win the World Cup. In 2022 De Bruyne and Hazard will be 30+ while guys like Vermaelen, Witsel, Mertens, Vertonghen, Kompany or Fellaini might not even be there anymore. It’s now or never, time to reap what we sow. Belgium’s best performance in a World Cup is the semifinal in 1986. The wait has been long enough for the Belgian people.

Yet, one man can still blow everything up and bring an entire nation (that’s Belgium in case you couldn’t follow) to its knees: Alisson. If there’s one keeper in this World Cup who can put up a show and deny 50+ shots from Lukaku and co, it’s him. De Gea and Neuer already left, Caballero is a clown and Pickford, Lloris, Akinfeev or Subasic are not in the same class.

Once again it’s Belgium that offers the same amount of talent in goal with Courtois. Both are born in 1992 and while Courtois has already won some major prizes, Alisson will soon follow in his footsteps. Perhaps already in this World Cup.

AS Roma can only benefit from this match. Brazil is eager to conquer the World Cup for the first time since 2002 and Alisson will be highly motivated to win his first meaningful prize. With every save, every block and every kick he only increases his market value. And saves against Lukaku or Hazard are worth more than Mitrovic or Seferovic, believe me.

Right now the offers are around 70-75 million euros (Chelsea). Almost double of the previous record, Ederson to Man City. With a perfect display on Friday and maybe a World Cup in the bag by July 15, that amount could potentially rise to 90-100m. And more.

AS Roma Monchi will surely support Brazil and Alisson on Friday while I can’t really betray my own country now, can I? How about a 3-2 for Belgium and some world class saves from Alisson to prevent a humiliation?