‘Come on Belgium!’ – Tony Watt backs Red Devils at World Cup
After spending just a year in the land of stroopwafels, good beer and quality chocolate, Tony Watt has been converted into a devoted fan of the Belgian national team.
With so many players starring in the Premier League and throughout Europe, many people are jumping on the Belgian bandwagon and expecting Marc Wilmots’ charges to go far in this summer’s World Cup.
His loan spell at Lierse for the 2013-14 season allowed Watt to absorb the Belgian culture and learn more about the nation’s footballing style and philosophy and the 20-year-old Celtic player’s time in the Low Country has turned him into a real fan of the Rode Duivels.
“Belgium is going to be my team,” the striker told BeNeFoot. “I’m a big fan of the way Belgian football is after going there. I was majorly impressed with it when I left. It’s all technical players.
“Some of the players are great, I was impressed with Anthony Vanden Borre from Anderlecht in Belgium and he probably won’t be playing.
“In defence they are maybe not as good as some other teams but they’ve still got the likes of Kompany and the rest and they’ve also got Witsel and Fellaini.
“Fellaini has had a hard season but he’s going to be a big player for them. At Manchester United he played a different role than he did at Everton and for Belgium he plays a deeper role.
“It’s a good formation, they’ve got a good team to play with a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 with an attacking midfielder involved.”
In the absence of Christian Benteke, Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku will lead the lines for Belgium in Brazil as they take on Russia, South Korea and Algeria. And Watt is in awe of the 6’3” machine who blasted Everton into sixth place in the Premier League.
“Lukaku is the man. He’s the most powerful player I’ve seen in years. He scores goals for fun and done well. I was born in the same same year as him – that scares me even thinking about it.”
And in typical self-deprecating Glaswegian fashion, he jokes: “It’s scary seeing how well he’s doing compared to what I’m doing. He’s playing at Everton and Chelsea and I was sitting on the bench at Lierse!”
With so many bright and supremely talented players plying their trade in England, Germany, Russia, Italy, Spain and France many across the world have been convinced for some time that the Belgians are the dark horses for this year’s tournament. But having seen the standard of the nation’s league as well as the stars, the Celtic player has been up close and personal with the Belgians and is convinced they have what it takes to go far.
“I think they’re the real deal. I think the toughest game for them just now will be the last-16. If they get through and get beyond that they will show they’re the real deal and teams will be a bit scared of them.
“I think they’ll breeze through the group, or they should anyway. I watched them play against Scotland (2-0) and they say they didn’t even play that well against Scotland.”
Some have got a bit too carried away with Belgium, though, and think they can go on to win the tournament, but Watt shares the BeNeFoot feeling that Wilmots’ team are still not at that level and it is the hosts he feels will be the team to lift the trophy on 13th July.
“I’m going to go with the favourites, I’m going to say Brazil. I’ve backed them since they won the Confederations Cup.
“The only thing that might haunt them is that they didn’t have to qualify, so they haven’t played any competitive games, they’ve only played friendlies.
“If they come out the blocks quick in the first three games then I think they’ll win it.”
Felipe Luiz Scolari’s men are expected to cruise through their group, in which they have been drawn alongside Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon and finishing first will set up a meeting with the runner up of Group B, which holds Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia. And Watt is convinced the Samba Boys can get beyond Louis van Gaal’s team if they meet in the second round.
“Dutch football isn’t that bad but the team this time isn’t the best, I’m quite shocked by it.
“I thought big Virgil van Dijk would have had a chance. I’ve trained with him a couple of times and you can tell how difficult it is to get by him. He’s a good player. He’s definitely got a bright future ahead of him.
“He’s got everything for a defender. He can play football as well, he’s strong, he’s fast, he’s smart. He had a really good season.”
While he may be disappointed to see his Celtic team-mate not make the trip to Brazil, there are a few players he is looking forward to. Specifically, Brazil’s 22-year-old talisman.
“I think Neymar will shine, I think this will be his tournament. I think the only reason he hasn’t been doing too well at Barca is that he’s not number one, it’s Messi who is number one. I think if he had gone to a different team then he would be the main man, the focal point of the team and I think he’d do well.”
As a Scotsman, there aren’t many opportunities for Watt to get involved in a World Cup – he was four when they last qualified for a national tournament. Regardless, he’s well up for this one and will be cheering on his adopted second country from Glasgow.
“I can’t wait. It will be fun to watch it.”