Much has been expected of Belgium for a couple of years now and, with 14 players contracted to Premier League clubs plus the likes of Steven Defour at Porto and Axel Witsel at Zenit, understandably so.
As recognition of Belgium's potential has grown, so too has the realisation that, for all their quality in midfield and their ability to dominate possession, they can be toothless and there was a general sense of frustration that they failed really to challenge Germany and Turkey in their qualifying group for Euro 2012.
That, perhaps, was a tough group, but that is Belgium's problem. Until their coefficient improves they will continue to draw top sides but until they win games, their coefficient isn't going to improve. That is why Eden Hazard, the Chelsea winger, spoke of this World Cup qualifying group as being now or never for Belgium. To an extent, as the so-called golden ages of Portugal, Romania, England and Ivory Coast have found before them, expectation brings pressure and that can make failure self-perpetuating. But it's also the case that the draw has been kind: a group with Croatia, Serbia, Scotland, Wales and Macedonia is not easy but it is as negotiable as Belgium are likely to get until they start qualifying for tournaments on a regular basis.
A 2-0 win in Wales against a demoralised team reduced to 10 men in the first half followed by a home draw against Croatia did little to dispel the doubts, but finally, in teeming rain in Belgrade on Friday, they perhaps began to deliver on their promise. It is just one game and there was an element of fortune about their 3-0 win in that it depended on Serbia missing a number of chances - and Thibaut Cortois - but at the same time there was a resilience to their defending and a clinical aspect to their attacking that has been lacking in the past.
The hope for Belgium was always that the lack of punch would be solved by time. Their midfield may be young, but their centre-forward options are even younger. 25-year-old Everton forward Kevin Mirallas can play through the middle but seems more natural coming from wide, and the two main striking options are both 19. The more hyped of them, Romelu Lukaku, has struggled for pitch-time since his move to Chelsea in 2011 and his absence through injury gave an opportunity to Christian Benteke, who joined Aston Villa from Genk in the summer.
His involvement was necessarily fitful given the way Serbia controlled the ball for most of the game, he took his goal superbly, meeting Kevin De Bruyne's right-wing cross with a fine header. He then headed just over from a Dembele cross midway through the second half, his mobility and aerial ability a constant threat.
Instead it was Serbia who were left cursing their lack of cutting edge. They may have scored six against Wales in their previous home game but so concerned was Sinisa Mihajlovic by the lack of a natural spearhead that he included three previously uncapped attacking players in his squad. He started, though, with Filip Djuricic, more usually an attacking midfielder for heerenveen, as his centre-forward, ahead of a creative trident of Zoran Tosic, Dusan Tadic and Lazar Markovic.
In the first 20 minutes, Tosic and Tadic, interchanging superbly on the right, threatened to tear Belgium apart. Tosic, who had a spell at Manchester United before moving to CSKA Moscow, hit the post with an early curler from just outside the box and Tadic, running onto a pass from Aleksandar Ignjovski had a low shot saved by Thibaut Courtois. Branislav Ivanovic only just failed to reach a low driven cross from Tosic and Milan Bisevac volleyed just wide from a corner.
Once they'd survived the early storm, though, Belgium began to look increasingly secure, and in that sense this was a highly mature performance from them. Having taken the lead, it was all too simple for them to pick off Serbia on the break as their trio of attacking midfielders, frequently bolstered by Mousa Dembele striding forward from deep, again and again found space from which they could play angled balls through Serbia's back four. The third goal, swept in by Mirallas from Dries Mertens's cross may have been offside, but it was the last of many similar chances. Zeljko Brkic got just enough on a Hazard effort to keep it out, and De Bruyne slammed a shot into the side-netting after Brkic had palmed out another Mertens cross.
Was it Belgium being ruthless, or Seerbia rather losing their discipline having gone behind, always a danger with such a young side?
To an extent it was both, but Belgium head into Tuesday's home fixture against Scotland knowing that one of their two toughest away fixtures is out of the way and won handsomely. Croatia, surely, won't find it so easy when they travel to Belgrade next September. More than that, Marc Wilmots, can draw encouragement from the manner of the victory, absorbing pressure, riding their luck when necessary, and then striking decisively once a weakness had been exposed.