- Belgium reflect on their best-ever World Cup finish
- Kompany, captain Hazard and Witsel speak with FIFA.com
- “We’ve come on in leaps and bounds,” said Kompany
By Simon Massart with Belgium
“What a rush of emotions!” said Vincent Kompany, a 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ bronze medal clutched in his hand and a smile spread across his face. In one fell swoop, with the 2-0 victory over England, he and his team-mates earned Belgium a first-ever podium finish at the global extravaganza and also ensured that they will no longer be written off as a golden generation that failed to live up to the hype.
The Diables Rouges made it six wins from seven games to conclude their Russian adventure on a high. “It’s mission accomplished: our positive feelings now outweigh the regrets that we had after our semi-final defeat. Above all, we feel proud and we go away firmly intending to keep working hard so that we can be even better next time round,” the centre-back told FIFA.com.
The 32-year-old appeared determined to savour the present before turning his attention to the future. “We’ve come on in leaps and bounds recently thanks to a more effective method for preparing for matches. The results have been plain to see in Russia,” he said bullishly.
However, he was coyer about the question of his own plans – something that is on everyone’s lips in Belgium: “I need some time to decide whether I’m going to keep playing for the Diables Rouges. It’s too important a decision to be made in the heat of the moment.”
For his part, Eden Hazard was in an equally upbeat mood after claiming his third Budweiser Man of the Match award of the tournament: “We’ll be even stronger in two years’ time. It’ll go down as a successful World Cup for us, but I’m convinced that even better awaits us in the future.”
An inspirational figure for the competition’s leading scorers, Hazard not only showcased his mesmeric dribbling skills in his every outing in Russia, but he also led by example as captain and helped himself to three goals along the way. All of that is a clearer indication of his personal progress, particularly given his more subdued performances four years ago in Brazil.
The consensus among Roberto Martinez’s players, including their skipper, was that beyond just their fine results, Belgium can derive additional satisfaction from the style in which they acquitted themselves. As Axel Witsel put it, “I believe we were the most attractive team to watch at the tournament.”
The midfield grafter, one of the workhorses whose efforts in the shadows set the stage for Belgium to finally revel in the limelight, went on to offer his own optimistic vision of the future: “We were strong from beginning to end thanks to our maturity when things got tough. We’ve taken a real step forward over the last few weeks. Looking ahead, that gives me a lot of confidence and the conviction that we’ll be even better in the future.”