Belgium coach Marc Wilmots: I know how to deal with Messi
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots was understandably swept up on a tidal wave of emotion after he saw his side reach the World Cup quarter-finals for only the second time in their history following a heartstopping 2-1 win over the United States in Salvador. Speaing immediately after the game to RTBF, he was well aware of the scale of the team’s achievement.
“We took the game to them the entire match and we had perhaps fifteen chances. I think it was largely deserved even though we were a bit scared when they made it 2-1. Several players went right to the end. Reaching the quarter finals is historic. The whole of Belgium can celebrate.
“We prepared for this (with Lukaku). He had a difficult time of it and was heavily criticised after the two group games. I remind you of what I said to him – that maybe you feel like death now but maybe in the second round or the quarters you’ll send us through. That’s the life of a striker. He stood up to be counted – all the players did. We have 23 players, we have shown it in every game. The players kept coming forward. Too much of that is not good for my heart!”
Wilmots praised his players for their approach in extra time and assessed where this squad stands alongside their predecessors in his post-game press conference:
“My players were exhausted, that’s normal so we dropped off. Fortunately they made up for that with their intelligence by playing on the counter. Our young players have never before had the chance to play in this type of game.
“History will tell us (if this is the best Belgian team ever). It’s only the second time Belgium have made the World Cup quarter-finals. We have set the bar very, very high and we want even more. The coach who succeeds me won’t be able to enjoy himself. The problem is that it could be me!
He then turned his attentions to Argentina and their star man Lionel Messi,answering in a surprisingly bullish mood:
“Argentina is a matter for tomorrow or the day after. It will be a different game. They play 5-3-2 (Ed: They have since switched to a back four) with four fantasy players and two wingbacks who get forward a lot. However, it’s a team lacking in balance. This time we won’t be favourites but in the quarters being a little bit stronger means nothing. I have already everything in my mind. We’re not going to go and watch Messi playing. I know how to deal with him. On the other hand, I wonder what they are going to do to counter us. It will be interesting.”
Those remarks were in addition to those he had made earlier in a studio interview on RTBF:
“It reminds of Brazil-Belgium in 2002. Argentina are a great footballing nation who have yet to produce what we expect of them (in this tournament). It will be a great game to see, I think the people (at home) will enjoy themselves. As for us, we have a great opportunity and we now have just one goal – to reach the semis. We are not afraid. I think (Argentina) have seen the game, it’s rather them who will start to have doubts creeping in.”