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Exclusive: Dembele discusses World Cup draw, Belgium and his role at Spurs

Mousa Dembele in action for Belgium Mousa Dembele in action for Belgium

Friday, December 6, 2013
12:02 PM

Mousa Dembele believes the World Cup will come down to the survival of the fittest as the Belgian prepares for today’s draw for the group stage.

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Dembele and his international colleagues finished top of European Group A in qualifying and, along with 31 other countries, they are about to discover who they will face in Brazil in the summer.

The draw for the group stage of the tournament will be made this afternoon, in the Bahia region of the host nation, and Belgium are one of the seeded teams, meaning they will avoid the other favourites for the trophy.

Their squad is likely to include the Spurs trio of Dembele, Jan Vertonghen and Nacer Chadli in addition to a host of other Premier League stars such as Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke, Vincent Kompany and Eden Hazard.

Belgium are consequently being tipped as dark horses for the tournament, but Dembele says last month’s friendly defeats against Japan and Colombia served as a sobering reality check – and he feels the nations with the freshest players, rather than the biggest stars, will have the best tournaments.

“We just played two games against Japan and Colombia and they were two unbelievable countries, they were very good,” he said.

“I thought ‘Japan, maybe we will win 3-0 and Colombia, ok that will be difficult’. But we lost both of them and we were surprised how good they are, so I think there will be no easy games at the World Cup. All of the top countries are there, so it will be very exciting for the supporters.

“I think it’s going to be about who’s the fittest, because there are so many good countries that the ones who are the fittest, with the least injuries, they will be the best.

“We have a good squad but so do England and all of these countries, so that’s going to be the difference I think.”

Belgium could be drawn against Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions, and Dembele would relish that scenario.

“Of course – I’ve lived here for almost four years, so I have a certain feeling with this country, and I love living here,” he said.

“You have a certain connection and it’s always fun to play against England and your team-mates, and to joke around with each other.”

For now, Dembele is focusing on domestic affairs with Tottenham, and he has underlined his value to the club over the past nine days.

The 26-year-old scored the second goal in the 2-0 victory over Tromso in the Europa League last Thursday – his third goal in 64 appearances for Spurs – and he delivered a strong performance in Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Manchester United.

Dembele’s best position is an often-debated topic among supporters, and he has played in a range of roles during his career so far.

Having operated as a forward at AZ Alkmaar, he was used as a creative midfielder at Fulham and has now moved further back to become a defensive midfielder in Andre Villas-Boas’ 4-2-3-1 system.

Dembele feels he has the attributes and versatility to perform any of those roles and, while he is keen to improve his strike-rate, he is happy to play his designated part in Villas-Boas’ plan.

“Every player wants to be better, and I have some points in my game that I need to upgrade,” he said. “I can be better in every aspect – of course goals.

“In the last year I’ve played a bit more defensively, but I still want to score more goals, and every year you want to be more and more important for the team.

“In the end that’s the main thing, to be important for the team and to help the team to succeed. For me personally, if I have to make 20 tackles in every game I will do it to win the game. I need to do what’s good for the team.

“Before, at Alkmaar, I played as a No9 – in Holland I played more offensively. I think I have overall qualities, I can do different kinds of things. It’s a bit like Jan Vertonghen – he can play well here, and he can play well there.

“Would I be comfortable in the No10 position? Yes, of course. Every position needs a bit of adaptation, but if the gaffer puts me there then I’ve played a lot of times in that position, and why not?

“In the end the manager’s going to put you where he thinks is best for the team, and if he puts me somewhere and that’s for everyone’s good then you need to give everything because you want to succeed.

“You want to do well for the club and you want to win things, and you have to trust the manager. If he says ‘you’re better for us in this position’ then you have to do that, of course.”

Mousa Dembele was speaking at the unveiling of the TrueBeam Linac radiotherapy machine at North Middlesex University Hospital – part of Tottenham Hotspur’s season-long support of the ‘Get to know cancer’ campaign.

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs

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