Soccer-We're no golden generation, say Belgium's current crop
BRUSSELS, Sept 5 |
BRUSSELS, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Belgium's manager and players sought to crush talk of a new golden generation on Wednesday 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 each cost Chelsea and Zenit St Petersburg some 40 million euros ($50.25 million) while Tottenham Hotspur bought Moussa Dembele for 15 million pounds ($23.8 million) and Jan Vertonghen for about 10 million.
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 180 million euros behind only Brazil and Portugal. Only four of the 25-man squad play in Belgium.
However, after training before Friday's World Cup qualifying opener in Wales, 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 World Cup qualifying Group A campaign against Wales on Friday before hosting Croatia next Tuesday.
The section also features Macedonia, Scotland and Serbia, with only the top side guaranteed a place at the 2014 finals in Brazil. ($1 = 0.7961 euros) ($1 = 0.6295 British pounds) (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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