This article originally appeared in The Daily News.
Imagine if tiny Hershey, Pa., was an entire nation. Now open your eyes — and welcome to Belgium.
The compact European nation of 11 million is slightly smaller than the state of Pennsylvania, but it boasts more chocolate per capita than even the confectionery capital of the U.S.
The monarchy — yes, the soccer team’s No. 1 fan is King Philippe, not Jean Claude Van Damme — produces a staggering 220,000 tons of chocolate annually.
And they’re hoping to give the Americans a huge kiss-off in Tuesday’s World Cup showdown.
The nation’s low profile is just fine with Yves Michiels, a Belgian transplant who owns three BXL restaurants in Manhattan.
“We are so small, people don’t adjust to us,” said Michiels, 42, whose eateries have catered to Belgian ex-pats since the World Cup began. “We have to adjust to the world.”
The Belgians hope to raise their profile on the international soccer stage before slipping back into familiar Eur-obscurity until the 2018 World Cup.
There are some obvious reasons why Belgium remains on the back burner of global attention.
Remember Jacques Brel? The most famous of Belgian musicians died 36 years ago. You know french fries? The Belgians serve ‘em with MAYONNAISE. And you’re griping about taxes? Belgians can pay up to 40% of their gross earnings.
The nation’s most beloved sculpture is titled Manneken Pis, which is just what it sounds like. The bronze piece of art, which dates to the 17th century, depicts a small boy urinating.
Oddsmakers installed Belgium as the favorite to advance in the knockout round game, listing them as a 20-1 dark horse to win the quadrennial competition.
The Belgians swept their first three World Cup games, surrendering just a single goal to win their group. And they easily defeated the U.S. 4-2 last year in a friendly match in Cleveland.
The Americans, with a win, a loss and a tie in their first three games in Brazil, were listed as a 50-1 shot to hoist the international hardware.
Cocky Belgian backers believe their squad is set to show their country is about more than delicious waffles — and bid “vaarwel” to U.S. hopes.
“We have more superb tactics than the U.S., and our players are more skilled,” said Thierry Boudrez, 46, a Belgian tourist.
Oddly enough, Belgian fans can root for their team in the nation’s three official languages: French, Flemish and German.
Few nations are better poised for a victory celebration than Belgium, producer of more than 800 beers. The average Belgian also drinks an average 150 liters of suds annually.