BRASILIA, July 4: Belgium coach Marc Wilmots on Friday told his players that they can “write history” in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against Argentina in Brasilia by going on the attack.
Belgium last reached the semi-finals in 1986, when they lost to Diego Maradona’s Argentina, and with the last four now in sight, Wilmots has urged his side not to be inhibited by the occasion.
“We’ve studied them and we’ll stick to our philosophy of going forward. We won’t just defend,” said the former Belgium midfielder, who played at three World Cups.
“We play compact football and we don’t leave a lot of space. We have to attack and defend together.
“It’s all a matter of balance between attack and defence, but it’s a quarter-final. We can write history. The players know this and we’re going to play our own game.”
Wilmots is also anxious for his players not to become fixated with the threat posed by Argentina’s star man Lionel Messi.
Messi has scored four and created two of the seven goals that Argentina have scored at the tournament so far and set up Angel Di Maria for their extra-time winner against Switzerland in the last 16.
However, Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said that it was wrong to consider Argentina a one-man team, and Wilmots concurs.
“I think Ottmar Hitzfeld is right,” he told a press conference at the Mane Garrincha National Stadium.
“People tend to focus on Messi, and rightly so, but this morning I watched the Argentina-Switzerland match and the team is not just Lionel Messi. It’s a whole. You have to reach a balance.
“At some points they left a few scoring opportunities for Switzerland, so things can change very quickly.”
Wilmots’s remarks were echoed by defender Jan Vertonghen, who said: “I think Messi’s been outstanding so far. Obviously, he’s their main man, but they have many players to watch out for.
“Messi isn’t the only striker Argentina have. There’s also (Gonzalo) Higuain, (Sergio) Aguero, who might be coming back (from injury), Di Maria. And the players on the bench.
“We have to defend as a team, as we did in the other games, and I’m confident we’ll do that.”
Wilmots revealed that there are fitness concerns over Vertonghen, right-back Toby Alderweireld, and midfielder Mousa Dembele, but he expressed optimism that all three would be fit enough to feature.
“Today (Friday) we’ll be training and we’ll see afterwards whether everybody is fit or not,” he said.
“There are two or three players where we don’t know exactly — Toby, Jan, and Dembele — but we hope everybody will be fit and available to play.”