Belgium, tiny country full of chocolate and beer, favored in World Cup game against U.S.

This article originally appeared in The Daily News.

BY NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Friday, June 27, 2014, 10:56 PM
Belgians celebrate Mardi Gras in Binche, a UNESCO World Heritage Carnival, in Binche, Belgium.MARK RENDERS/GETTY IMAGESBelgians celebrate Mardi Gras in Binche, a UNESCO World Heritage Carnival, in Binche, Belgium.

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.

The country is well-known for its waffles.
The country is well-known for its waffles.

“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.

European country is famous for (from l., clockwise) Jean Claude Van Damme, festivals chocolates, waffles and beer.FRANCOIS DURAND/GETTY IMAGESEnlarge
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Claire Rosemberg, Jerome RivetJOHN THYS/AFP/GETTY IMAGESEnlarge

Beligum is also known for Jean Claude Van Damme and beer.

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.

'Gilles' in traditional costume and wearing their famous ostrich feather hats throw oranges as they parade during the carnival in the streets of Binche for Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras.BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES‘Gilles’ in traditional costume and wearing their famous ostrich feather hats throw oranges as they parade during the carnival in the streets of Binche for Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras.

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.

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Author: sabrinacaserta

Sabrina Caserta, born and bred in Bronx, New York, is a freelance reporter whose work has appeared in the New York Daily News and Street Sense- a homeless-run street paper located in the District. As a member of Roger Williams University’s class of 2016, Sabrina studied Journalism and Political Science. This fueled her passion for social justice reporting, including issues of homelessness, institutionalized racism, poverty, education and the environment. She also served as the Project Director of the nation-brand initiative, The Re:Imagine Jamaica Project, and as a Resident Assistant for three years. As an avid reader, health enthusiast and travel addict, Sabrina enjoys yoga, cooking and writing in her spare time. She aspires to one day be an investigative journalist and travel the world. Twitter: @sabrinacaserta Email: sabcaserta AT gmail DOT com

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