After a goalless opening draw with Croatia in September 2000, the Belgians got into gear with two wins against the group's weakest sides, Latvia and San Marino.
The 10-1 win over the latter included a hat-trick in the final 15 minutes for Vitesse Arnhem's Bob Peeters.
But their most consistent player through the 14 months of qualification was team captain Marc Wilmots, who scored eight goals from midfield during the group stages and play-offs.
A 2-0 win at home to Scotland in September 2001 ensured the Red Devils a place in the top two, at the Scots' expense.
But a tense game in Zagreb last October was decided by Alen Boksic's strike and condemned the Belgians to a play-off with the Czechs.
Both games were settled by a single goal - but both were scored by Belgium.
Wilmots' 85th-minute penalty in the second leg in Prague saw his country through to the finals for the sixth successive time.