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Belgium World Cup Preview

Posted: Monday May 27, 2002 8:20 PM

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What are your earliest memories of the World Cup?
The final of the World Cup of 1978: Argentina versus Holland. I remember Rob Rensenbrink's shot hitting the post in the last minute. My best memory of the World Cup was in 1986 when Belgium performed very well and reached the semifinals.

Who should we look out for?
That should be our headline-grabbing strike partners Wesley Sonck and Emile Mpenza. Providing they aren't injured.

What stage do people back home expect you to reach?
The second round, and looking at the draw it's a must. We'll see what will happen then. It all depends on our next opponent. However, we haven't got the potential or quality to reach the semifinals.

If you don't win the World Cup, who will?
Argentina! Although I can't explain it. It's just a feeling that they are ready for another world title.

Is there too much money in football?
There is a lot of money involved in football but not too much. Otherwise, not so many people would spend money on football. It's just that there is a huge interest in this game.

How they line up

The opposition need never be confused about how Belgium will line up against them. Coach Robert Waseige is very much one of the old school, a believer in established strategies and well-practiced formations that the best coaches have come to swear by. Since he is no convert to new ideas and less well-rehearsed routines, it is absolutely safe to presume that Belgium will play 4-4-2 and stick with it, come what may.

Of all the players who have served Waseige during his three years in charge, goalkeeper Geert De Vlieger is most sure of his place in Japan. The consistent De Vlieger, who is looking for a bigger club than Willem ll, played every minute of the qualifiers and should keep his place at the expense of Frederic Herpoel, who has made a late bid for inclusion. Herpoel, who conceded four goals after appearing as a substitute in Waseige's first game -- the remarkable 5-5 draw away to Holland -- played the second half against Greece in March and let in another three. When he started an international for the first time, however, against Slovakia last month, he was beaten only by a late free kick from Vladimir Janocko. With Filip De Wilde's age counting against him, Waseige will have to decide between Ronny Gaspercic of Real Betis and Genk's Jan Moons as his third-choice keeper.

The joke in Belgium is that Eric Deflandre is the best keeper of them all. The right-back invariably makes up for his technical deficiencies with spectacular goalline clearances, which is good news for his central defenders. One of them is likely to be the 6ft 4in Daniel Van Buyten, who has come on in leaps and bounds since he joined Marseille. Van Buyten may well partner Anderlecht's resilient Glen De Boeck, which would mean Philippe Clement joining Eric Van Meir among the substitutes. On the left there is no one to challenge the overlapping Nico Van Kerckhoven, although Peter Van der Heyden is at least a competent stand-in.

Assuming that they are fit, Gert Verheyen and Bart Goor are certainties to start on the right and left in midfield since they are both capable of supplementing their prodigious endeavor with goals. Verheyen's Club Brugge teammate Timmy Simons has made a late bid for a central midfield spot; the other contenders are Sven Vermant, Danny Boffin and Stefaan Tanghe.

Waseige would love to have Johan Walem as his playmaker alongside Yves Vanderhaeghe, if only the latter could regain last season's outstanding form.

If Walem is preferred in midfield, where Waseige is reluctant to have him duplicating the good work of Marc Wilmots, he could always select Wilmots as one of his two forwards. But that is assuming the fitness of Emile Mpenza remains suspect. Waseige would like nothing better than to pair Genk's Wesley Sonck with Mpenza. But he may have to rely on either Mpenza's less talented brother, Mbo, Wilmots or Branko Strupar as Sonck's partner.

From World Soccer magazine.

Related information
World Soccer World Cup Team Previews
Belgium World Cup Team Page
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