DOHA ( Associated Press) — Belgium midfielder Kevin de Bruyne knew he didn’t do well in his team’s World Cup debut. And he said this when he accepted the award for the best of the party.
“I don’t know why they gave me the trophy,” he said. “Maybe it’s because of my name.”
With De Bruyne expected to improve after a disappointing 1-0 win over Canada, Belgium have a second chance against Morocco on Sunday to show why they are second in the FIFA rankings behind Brazil.
It may also be the last World Cup appearance for many of the iconic team, often dubbed the ‘golden generation’. The backbone of the team – De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Axel Witsel, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois – are all in their thirties.
Coach Roberto Martinez, who called the performance against Canada one of the team’s worst since taking over, may be tempted to make changes against Morocco.
The Spanish tactician would love to power back Romelu Lukaku, who missed the game with a left thigh injury and is a doubt for the entire group stage. Some Belgian media have reported that he may reappear earlier than expected against North Africa at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha.
Having secured it with Croatian Luka Modric, one of the best midfielders in the world, it will be less difficult for the Moroccan to try to stop De Bruyne.
A goalless draw against 2018 runners-up Croatia in their Group F opener was a promising start for Morocco, and especially for their coach Walid Regargui, who has had a lot to prepare for the tournament after being hired in late August. It was less than three months.
He was able to lead Morocco in only three friendly matches before Qatar. Nothing to do with Zlatko Dalic’s five years at the helm of Croatia. Or with Belgium with Martinez’s six.
The draw marked a grim start for North Africa with Modric and De Bruyne struggling against Croatia and Belgium, who were third in Russia. But the point against Croatia was a real booster.
“It is not easy to reach in these conditions, but I accepted the challenge,” Regargui said, adding the result with the Croats “gave us confidence.”