It was a chat with the Belgian press plus one journalist from the French sports newspaper l’Equipe, but after eight years that he already follows the Red Devils, he has become half Belgian. As always, the national coach had prepared himself well for the questions he knew would come. He was a bit more critical than usual – it can hardly be otherwise – but, as always, he protected his players.
It must have clattered at rest. Heavy words, players pointed to their responsibility and Carrasco and Tielemans removed from the team. We are not used to changes at halftime. Have you ever been so angry since you became national coach?
“Hmm… I hope I can get even angrier, because that means we’ll be playing even bigger games. It was important that clarity was created during the break. We had to use our experience more. Everyone reacted well and we won. That is the only thing that matters.”
What could be better against Morocco on Sunday?
“We are a team that must have the ball. We have to be able to dictate the game. If that doesn’t work, then we’re in a very difficult situation. We saw that against Canada. It’s about growing in this tournament. If you can do that winningly, you’re good. The frustration we showed at times was a good thing.”
Now you’re talking about Kevin De Bruyne. Even before the argument with Alderweireld, he walked with his arms wide open, irritated.
“There is often such frustration, you know. It’s just not always on TV. Now it is. Kevin has won many trophies and he knows how to win games. He feared that it would not work against Canada. A justified fear, because we didn’t play well. You really don’t need to look any further.”
It seems that he is annoyed with teammates because they do not reach the level of his teammates at Manchester City.
“Of course it is different at club level. That goes for every player. You live together, work together day in and day out. Then you are much more attuned to each other. We barely had a week of preparation.”
Can’t his behavior have a negative influence on the other players?
“No, Kevin played almost 100 international matches (95, ed.). He has experience. We have been with this group for six years. There are only ten players who play their first World Cup and they have been with the group for some time. Everyone knows Kevin. The players know each other through and through. This is not a new relationship and therefore it will not get out of hand.”
The second half against Canada was better, with Amadou Onana. Can you keep him out of the base against Morocco?
“He is a completely different profile than Witsel, Tielemans, Vanaken and Dendoncker. Those are the players who are also eligible for that position. It depends on the opponent and the game we want to play if he can be there from the start. We can make up to five substitutions per game. Nowadays, with those five substitutions, two teams are needed to prepare a match. One team to start the game and one to finish the game. Onana is a very important player in that regard.”
Don’t these Devils lack speed, dynamism? It’s all so slow. Will it not be easier against Morocco in that area? They also played at a lower pace against Croatia.
“Hmm, I wouldn’t say that. They have a lot of speed on the flanks, they are very dynamic, they are very strong in one-on-one situations. At any position on the field. They are also very good defensively. They sometimes left the ball to Croatia and that didn’t make them nervous. It will be different, but in terms of pressing and dynamics it will be equally difficult. It is a different team than Canada. The game against Egypt is a good parameter. ”
Eden Hazard played okay. Is he ready for Morocco?
“His performance was solid, he didn’t lose the ball. When he gets the ball, the game ends and you get more options as a team. He can go left and right. He was strong. Great that he lasted 60 minutes in a physically demanding match. I am happy after two difficult years. Not only as a footballer, but also as a person, he was able to go through a difficult period. First with the injuries, then by not being able to play and not being able to help the team. I was proud of his presence and to see him start the World Cup like this. He’s ready.”