By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Exclusive: Mousa Dembele says there is a real sense of anticipation in Belgium ahead of this summer’s World Cup, given the talent in the squad – and he feels complacency is one of the biggest threats.
The Red Devils failed to qualify in 2006 and 2010 but this time they are among the eight seeded teams after being listed fifth in Fifa’s world rankings in October.
That is no surprise, given that Belgium boast the likes of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini, Thomas Vermaelen, Kevin Mirallas, Adnan Januzaj and goalkeepers Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet – plus the Tottenham contingent of Dembele, Jan Vertonghen and Nacer Chadli.
They won eight of their 10 qualifying games to finish nine points ahead of their nearest challengers, Croatia, and Dembele said: “Of course everybody’s very excited at home. Everybody can see that it’s a huge difference from two years ago.
“We can see that the country’s behind us and it’s unbelievable. I never saw this, of course it’s the first World Cup that I’m maybe going to be in. The country is behind us.”
Belgium’s hopes have been boosted by the fact that they have been placed in a relatively easy group with Algeria, Russia and South Korea.
But Dembele said: “That’s the dangerous thing about this. Of course we’re happy that we could have got more difficult teams to play against, but still it’s a World Cup.
“Anything can happen, like Greece winning the European Championship, so we respect everyone and we have to respect ourselves as well to do everything we can.
“I’m very happy to be in the squad. Sometimes we hang out with the other Belgians in London. They have different programmes than us, but sometimes we do that. Of course there are three Belgians at Tottenham so we chill together.
“I’m excited about playing, because everybody knows we have a very good squad and we can do something if everybody’s fit.”
That is an important caveat because Belgium have already lost Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke to injury after he ruptured his achilles tendon in April. Fortunately, they have another similarly powerful forward.
“Of course Benteke’s very important for us so it’s really a shame for us and everybody’s with him, but we have a lot of good players,” said Dembele. “Lukaku is unbelievable as well so let’s hope we can do something good out there.”
Dembele could well find himself lining up against a fellow Tottenham midfielder when Belgium face Algeria, who are expected to have Nabil Bentaleb in their ranks.
“I think everyone can confirm that Nabil’s an unbelievable player, so it’s going to be difficult for us,” said Dembele. “We know his quality but still we have a lot of quality as well. I’m going to try to give him a headache if I play against him.”
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