Saturday 20 January 2018

'Ball is in our court'

Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois dives for the ball during squad training ahead of Monday’s Euro 2016 Group E with Italy in Lyon. Photo: Reuters
Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois dives for the ball during squad training ahead of Monday’s Euro 2016 Group E with Italy in Lyon. Photo: Reuters

Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois believes that his side have enough quality not only to get out of their group at Euro 2016 but to go on and win the tournament.

The Belgians face their first team of the competition against Italy in Lyon next Monday but while the injured defender Vincent Kompany will be missed, Chelsea man Courtois is upbeat about the Red Devils' chances.

"I'm very much looking forward to the tournament. It's the second one for our generation, and after the World Cup when we reached the quarter-final, we felt we could do better," he says, referring to the Belgians' poor showing in the 2014 World Cup finals.

"The hope this year is to go as far as possible. It'll be very hard, there are lots of top teams and you need sometimes to be a bit lucky. We go there and we think we are one of the teams that could win it, but of course we have to go step by step.

"We have a good side and we can go far but we must approach every game like a final," he said.

"Obviously that attitude can create some pressure but a lot of our guys play for big teams and know what it is to have pressure on themselves. That can only help us.

"A lot of it is about momentum. If you win your first game you feel in the mood and you are ready to do great things. Sometimes it is luck on the day that helps you or doesn't help you."

Ireland are next in line for the Belgians once they get their match with Italy out of the way, and the Blues keeper says he's wary of all of the teams in Group E.

"We have a difficult group," he says.

"Italy are a strong competitor, they always are. It'll be a hard start against them.

"Sweden are a dangerous team and Ireland will defend well and look for space we leave at the back because we are a team that likes to have possession.

"The three games will be similar. We might have the most quality of the teams in our group but in football it's not always quality that wins games; it's about team spirit and fighting for each other and doing your tactical work well," added Courtois, expected to start in goal for the Red Devils ahead of Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet.

Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan, a certain starter in the Belgian side in the Euros, has also stressed the fighting spirit in the Belgian camp as they aim to make up for the disappointing showing in Brazil two years ago

"We have many great players, but unless we get it in our heads that we must all play together, helping each other out and running and working, it's going to be hard to go anywhere. We still need some work on that, but there have been signals of progress," says Nainggolan.

"My style of play is the same in my club as in the national team. Fighting, never surrendering, giving your all for the team. That's how I like to play."

Meanwhile, Italy admit that they are more fearful of the Belgians than the other sides in this group. "Our group at the Euros is difficult," says AC Milan star Stephan El Shaarawy.

"We have Belgium, who are a great side and who showed us that in [the 3-1 victory over Italy] in November.

"Then Sweden, a team which has Ibrahimovic, a truly world-class player.

"And finally Ireland who do not have famous footballers in their ranks, but if they managed to get this far they must be a good team.

"Even Leicester didn't have well-known players but they managed to win the Premier League."

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