By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua)
-- Being classed as a ‘golden
generation’ can be a blessing as much as a curse. It piles the
weight of expectation on a squad of players making their task of
winning a major tournament just that bit harder.
You only have to ask
a member of England’s supposed ‘golden generation’ Frank Lampard,
John Terry, Steven Gerrard and David Beckham, about how the
hopes of England supporters and the criticism of the press when
those hopes remained unfulfilled, made playing for England a
chore to be endured rather than an honor.
England don’t have a
golden generation in Russia (although they might have if they
continue to progress in the current World Cup), but one nation
does have what can be considered as one of the greatest sides in
its history playing here.
Belgium reached the
semifinals of the 1986 World Cup, but never had this much
talent. Now they have a squad packed with stars and with options
to turn things around as they showed in their thrilling 3-2 win
over Japan in the last 16.
That game saw
Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli both come off the bench to
score, the first time ever two substitutes have scored in a
World Cup finals knockout round. Mousa Dembele or Adnan Januzaj,
who scored a fine goal against England, never even got a chance
to come off the bench. That only serves to highlight the depth
of talent available to affable coach Roberto Martinez, who can
call upon players like Thibaut Courtois, Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu
Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany.
Belgium made their
fans suffer against the Japanese with their heroic fight back
from 2-0 down to snatch victory with virtually the last kick of
the game. Just as England saw their belief rise when they
finally banished their penalty shootout ghost against Colombia,
Belgium’s captain Vincent Kompany believes that their victory
over Japan is a key moment in his country’s football history as
they prepare to play Brazil for a place in the semifinals.
“It used to be in
Belgian culture... we would feel defeated even before a game
like this but all these players in our team, who play at clubs
around the world, now believe 100 percent we can beat Brazil,”
A similar side fell
at the same stage in 2014 and in the 2016 European Championships
and Kompany accepts the importance of Friday’s match.
“The fact that the
game against Brazil is defining for our generation is for sure,
though... there is a level above, which we need to achieve. So
it’s a defining game, but not just for us, it’s a defining game
for Brazil as well,” explained the defender.
So many already
believe this is Neymar’s World Cup, but if Belgium are near
their best against Brazil, who knows; it could be Lukaku, Hazard
and De Bruyne’s. When fans talk about Brazil, they talk about
one player; when they discuss Belgium they discuss the team.
Brazil coach calls
on players to be mentally fit ahead of Belgium clash
KAZAN Russia (Xinhua) --
Brazil coach Tite says he expects the quarterfinal match against
Belgium on Friday evening to be a “great one”, and urged his
players to be mentally strong facing their opponents.
“They are a strong
attacking team. They have, technically, great value,” he said at
the press conference in the Kazan Arena on Thursday afternoon.
He noted that both Brazil and Belgium excel in playing beautiful
football. “They have several players who are very skilful,
and a great coach as well,” he said. “I have always put them in
the group of favorites (for the title). It is the same now.”
Brazil have won five
World Cup titles, but Belgium are the tournament’s top goal
scorers so far.
It is for this
reason that he is stressing mental fortitude in the very
decisive match. “Two weeks ago, I said to the players that you
have to believe in the intensity we have,” he said. “Keep up the
good work. We need a team that is mentally strong.”
He admitted that
with the progression of the matches, he felt a little bit
relaxed “because of the performance of the players”.
“They make me feel
at ease,” he said. “I want them to grow in front of challenges.”
“In the last third
of the pitch, we are very strong individually and very skilful.
That’s what I tell them all the time: the coach works to get
them well organised off the ball and in the build-up. But when
we get to the last third it’s time for them to use their
creativity,” he said.
He also talked about
possibility of penalties. “Penalties are really hard,” he said.
He himself missed a
penalty when he was a player more than three decades ago. “We do
a lot of practice, and it is subject to emotional control,” he
said. “You have to prepare yourself, and show your confidence to
the teammates. “
Miranda, who is
going to be captain for the match, said that the team has a huge
task ahead of it.
“As the national
team we have responsibility to play a top match. We know the
difficulties the match is going to present. We are going to be
focused, do our best, because we face a great opponent. “
Talking about his
lineup, Tite said that Marcelo “is coming back.” Marcelo was
injured in the game against Serbia. “I’ve spoken with both
Marcelo and Filipe Luis. Filipe played very well in both
matches. But now we are going with Marcelo again,” he said.
The coach also
commented on Neymar.
“He knew the price
he paid to come to the point,” said the 57-year-old tactician.
“He resumed his work very quickly. He had quality passing and
you could see how much he had been participating.”
The last time Brazil
and Belgium faced each other was at the 2002 World Cup, when the
Red Devils were beaten 2-0.
“What I look for
(in) the athletes and myself is to keep the standard and keep
growing,” he said. “Do your best. If your best is better than
your opponent, you are likely to win.”
The game against
Brazil to be a test to see where we stand as a team
KAZAN Russia (Xinhua) --
The game against Brazil is going to be a test to
see where we stand as a team, said Belgian footballer Romelu
Lukaku on Thursday afternoon ahead of the quarterfinal match
here in the Kazan Arena.
“We are going to
play the best team, a favorite,” said the 25-year-old forward
who had scored four goals at the Russia World Cup. “We have
prepared thoroughly as a team. Nothing in life is easy. If you
want to achieve, you have to fight.”
He recalled the
match against Japan. “We had to fight till the last second to
win,” he said.
The match in the
knockout round was proved a tough one, in which Japan led for
more than 20 minutes after scoring two goals, while Belgium
staged a comeback, sealing the victory with a last-gasp goal.
Thomas Meunier, a
defender from Paris Saint-Germain, crossed for Nacer Chadli to
prod home while Lukaku stood in the front selling a dummy.
“I saw Thomas,” he
said. Meunier was prevented from moving into the box. “Then I
saw someone behind. I thought if I touched, it could be blocked.
So I let it pass.”
“I think as a team
we played well from beginning to the end,” he said. “We had a
beautiful goal scored on counter-attack, a goal so that the team
can move forward.”
The coach Roberto
Martinez made two substitutions after the hour mark, which
created dramatic effect.
“The overall message
(from the match) is that you cannot only rely on the 11 players
in the pitch when you come to a World Cup. Everyone should feel
ready to contribute. It is important that the mentality of all
the players is ready,” he said.
It is not going to
be an easy game, Martinez said. “We are looking at the negative
side. They are No. 2 in the world rankings and we respect them
immensely. We are No. 3 and we know who we are. We have to be
very basic. “
Brazil have won five
World Cup titles, but Belgium are the tournament’s top
goalscorers so far. Last time Brazil and Belgium faced each
other at the 2002 World Cup, when the Red Devils were beaten
“The two sides are
similar in terms of quality of players,” he said. “The
difference is that Brazil know how to win the World Cup. They
are more experienced. They have a psychological advantage on
Lukaku had a similar
view. “(Weakness?) Not really,” he said. “I think they are
defensively strong. They have players who can make a difference.
They have attackers who are quite dangerous, and three to four
good defenders. We should know how to attack.”
He praised Neymar as
a skillful player, who maybe the future best player in the
world. “We are happy to be playing against him,” he said.
But he denied that
the match would be the most important one for him. “If we win,
the match after that will be more important. Tomorrow’s match is
a benchmark. We will try to win...(and) go as far as we can.”