Football

Belgium shrug off pressure ahead of opener

Belgium coach Wilmots says his young side have nothing to lose

GROUP H

BELGIUM v ALGERIA

(Tonight, 11.59pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 141 & StarHub TV Ch 223)

Belgium will not crack in their opening World Cup game with Algeria, said coach Marc Wilmots this morning (Singapore time).

He insisted that real pressure is felt not by footballers but by the seriously ill in hospital.

Wilmots - who had a distinguished playing career, appearing at four World Cup Finals - added that the tag of dark horses had originated from the foreign press and was not one he would attach to his largely young and vibrant side.

"Pressure? What pressure? Pressure is, for example, when a child is seriously ill in hospital," said the 45-year-old, who has been in charge of the national side only since 2012.

"This is football: I see nothing but sheer enjoyment from the players here. In just two years we have come an incredibly long way. Now the players are going to do everything they can so that they do not go home with regrets.

"In 2002, I left my last World Cup without feeling any regrets (they were beaten by eventual champions Brazil in the last 16) but with pride, having been daring and combative.

"I want it to be the same way this time. We are small, but we will fight with all the weapons we have."

Wilmots added that the foreign media were perhaps overestimating their chances.

VERY KIND

"The foreign press has, on occasions, labelled us as such (as outsiders for the title), which is very kind of them, but I must remind everyone that while we have come a long way, we had a lot of ground to make up.

"It has been 12 years with nothing (referring to the gap between major finals). So favourites or outsiders matter not a jot to us.

"We will carry on our path that we have planned and play our matches with the same philosophy that we want to get better and we will see where that leads us."

Wilmots, nicknamed in his playing days as "War Pig", said that he wasn't concerned by the Algerians' reputation for being extremely physical.

"A lot of teams have adopted a muscular approach in the games so far," said Wilmots, scorer of 28 goals in his 70 internationals.

"So that aspect doesn't exactly strike fear into me. The players will give their all. I am more worried about the individual skills of the Algerians, who are capable of beating their opposite numbers in one-on-one situations."

Wilmots, who was rewarded with a new contract before the Finals that takes him up to 2016, said he had instructed his players to not go out with all guns blazing.

"A lot of matches are decided in the final 20 minutes, it is why I told the players not to rush things, to stay calm, be patient. I have drawn up different scenarios, from A to C," he said.

After the Algeria game, the Belgians will go on to play Russia and then South Korea in Group H.

- AFP.

World Cup