BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Vincent Kompany says the prospect of Belgium qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia proved motivation in his “darkest moments” as he returns to his national team after an almost two year absence.
The Manchester City defender is set to play for his country against the Czech Republic in a warm-up friendly in Brussels on Monday and then against Estonia on Friday as the Belgians seek to consolidate their lead in qualifying Group H.
”In my darkest moments it was my biggest motivation,” he told reporters as the squad prepared for the two internationals.
”If I don’t get to the World Cup, I’m not suddenly going to burst into tears but it was important for me to look ahead to the tournament and keep myself sharp.
“It is not yet sure but the chances are good that next season is my last with the national team. So my hope is to experience a tremendous World Cup in 2018.”
The 31-year-old, who was only 17 when he debuted for the national team, has been unable to play for Belgium since October 2015 because of a string of injuries.
“I understand that people have been concerned and doubted whether I would come back but, honestly-speaking, it never bothered me,” he said.
“I know my level. If I can train with top players, then I know I can also play with them in matches. I’ve always been full of self confidence.”
Despite being regarded as one of the best defenders in the world, Kompany felt the injuries meant he had to persuade Pep Guardiola that could fit into the Manchester City boss’s plans in his first season in charge at the club.
“I think the game against Chelsea (in April) was decisive. It was my first game in a long time,” he said.
“I hadn’t played at all, not even a friendly game and, in a matter of speaking, I went from zero to 100. But he saw there that he could rely on me and since it has gone a lot smoother.”
Belgium have a two point lead at the top of Group H and are strongly fancied to win an automatic ticket to Russia after a quarter-final place at last year’s European Championship.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Nick Mulvenney