By reaching the quarter final to be played on Friday against Brazil in Kazan, Belgium’s Red Devils have achieved the least that could be expected of them at the 2018 Football World Cup in Russia, according to Bart Verhaeghe, Vice President of the Belgian Football Union (UB), but he says he “wants more”. “We decided two years ago that national-team players should enjoy the same environment they have in their clubs,” said Verhaeghe, for whom one of the keys to the team’s success is the fact that its training has become more professional.
“We have invested in the areas of medical support and diet,“ he said on Wednesday from Dedovsk. “High-level sport is a matter of detail. Another very important pillar is to make sure people fulfil their responsibilities. This is without a doubt the most difficult thing in an organization. There is nothing easier than shirking. This is not about one person, but about everyone. The match against Japan is an example. At 0-2 there was no question of panicking.”
The fact that the team achieved the minimum does not prevent Verhaeghe from hoping for more. “That’s given us a taste for more,” he says. “Because we are basically positive, we’re going to play a good match against Brazil; but tournaments can be cruel and two years’ work can be undone in a single match. We could say the aim has been achieved but, as sportsmen or Belgians, we won’t be satisfied. We want more”.
At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and Euro 2016 in France, the Red Devils were eliminated in the quarter finals. “You shouldn’t want to compare,” Verhaeghe says. “Professionalisation has changed many things. If we had worked like four years ago, we would have looked like amateurs. It’s no-one’s fault. Everything evolves. Football has changed too. Everything depends on the details.”
Part of the current generation of Red Devils may be retiring after this World Cup, but that does not worry Bart Verhaeghe. “We’ll still be as strong for Euro 2020,” he predicted. “In two years, we want to progress even further in terms of professionalism. Anyone who does not move forward, moves backward. There’s a lot of competition and many very good teams, and we want to be among them.”
“I’m not worried about 2020,” he continued. “We’re going to discover other players, but the important thing is for the foundation to be good. If you look at the match against England, we played almost with our B team. Some of the players are becoming more experienced. Integration is also important, there are quite a few players who have double nationality.”