£142m Belgians deny talk of ‘golden’ era
Belgium’s manager and players sought to crush talk of a new golden generation yesterday after a close season of big-money transfers and last month’s impressive 4-2 friendly win against the Netherlands.
Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel cost Chelsea and Zenit St Petersburg some £30 million each, while Tottenham bought Moussa Dembele for £15m and Jan Vertonghen for about £10m. Belgium also boast the captains of Manchester City and Arsenal in Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen.
Belgian daily La Derniere Heure claimed Belgium’s likely starting 11 was the third most expensive in the world at £142m, behind only Brazil and Portugal. Only four of the 25-man squad play in Belgium.
However, after training before tomorrow’s World Cup qualifying opener in Wales – in a group that also includes Scotland, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia – few wanted to talk of the team’s potential.
“A good team is based solely on results,” said coach Marc Wilmots, a former midfielder who won 70 caps from 1990-2002. Wilmots, who played much of his career at Germany’s Schalke 04, acknowledged his players were making progress. However, asked if playing abroad was a big advantage, he shrugged and said that at least his players would be reading newspapers less.
Striker Romelu Lukaku, on loan at West Bromwich Albion from Chelsea, said Belgium’s current squad could not think yet of measuring up to the country’s greats of the 1980s. Belgium have not qualified for a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup.
“We haven’t achieved anything. We have to keep both feet on the ground,” said Lukaku. “If we do better than the team of ’86 then you can talk of us as the golden era. We will have to see in a few years.”
Belgium, featuring the likes of Jan Ceulemans and Enzo Scifo, overcame the Soviet Union and Spain in 1986 to reach the World Cup semi-finals before losing to eventual champions Argentina.
They start their Group A campaign against Wales tomorrow and host Croatia on Tuesday.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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