Belgium has been the secret favorite in every major tournament for years. But it was never enough for the really big hit. If superstar Kevin De Bruyne has his way, it stays that way. The first two preliminary round games also give little reason for daydreaming. But you want to pull yourself together again.
After a clear discussion in the team circle, everything should now get better for Belgium's previously disappointing World Cup team. "It was a good exchange between the players. A lot came up on the table. Now we are preparing to win against Croatia," said Real Madrid captain Eden Hazard from Belgium's team base in Abu Samra, Qatar, on the Saudi border -Arabia.
After the surprising 2-0 loss in the second group game against Morocco on Thursday (4:00 p.m.), the "Rode Duivels" need a win against the runner-up world champions in order not to fail in the preliminary round of the World Cup for the first time since 1998. "I don't think it's my last match. We're there to win. We have to work harder for each other. That will make the difference. We have to work on that," said Hazard.
His team attracted attention at the World Cup mainly through individual actions. Kevin De Bruyne honestly and bluntly says that his team-mates in the national team are no longer on the level of their team-mates at Manchester City. Criticism of national coach Roberto Martínez was also heard: "I understand the criticism of the tactics, but as a player you can't do anything about it."
The fact that things are no longer right within the team can be felt both on the pitch in the many individual actions and in the statements made after the games. "Our defenders are not the fastest defenders in the world, but they know that," said Eden Hazard and Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois dismissed any blame for the first goal against Morocco with a direct free-kick from the near corner. "We're committing a foul that we shouldn't commit. Totally unnecessary," Courtois scolded Borussia Dortmund's Thomas Meunier, who was the worst Belgian on Sunday.
However, both Hazard and his club colleague Thibaut Courtois rejected the fact that the team was at odds. "There are a lot of lies being spread," said world goalkeeper Courtois. The French "L'Equipe" had reported that after the 0: 2 against Morocco there had almost been violent clashes in the dressing room and that Hazard and defender Jan Vertonghen had stood head to head. Courtois denied this. "There was nothing. It's constructed from the outside, it only welds us together more," said the real keeper. And Hazard quipped: "I won't fight him, he's taller than me."
Even before the bankruptcy against Morocco, Belgium star Kevin de Bruyne had caused trouble. Asked by the Guardian whether the eternal secret favorite Belgium had a chance of winning the title again this time, the Manchester City midfielder replies: "No chance, we're too old." Centre-back Jan Vertonghen said after the game: "I suppose we're bad up front because we're too old up front too. There are a lot of things on my mind that I shouldn't say, or at least I shouldn't not outside the dressing room. It's very frustrating today." Then came the big debate.