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Time for Belgiums ‘golden generation’ to shine against Brazil    

By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Being classed as a ‘golden generation’ can be a blessing as much as a curse. It piles the weight of expectation on a squad of players making their task of winning a major tournament just that bit harder.

You only have to ask a member of England’s supposed ‘golden generation’ Frank Lampard, John Terry, Steven Gerrard and David Beckham, about how the hopes of England supporters and the criticism of the press when those hopes remained unfulfilled, made playing for England a chore to be endured rather than an honor.

England don’t have a golden generation in Russia (although they might have if they continue to progress in the current World Cup), but one nation does have what can be considered as one of the greatest sides in its history playing here.

Belgium reached the semifinals of the 1986 World Cup, but never had this much talent. Now they have a squad packed with stars and with options to turn things around as they showed in their thrilling 3-2 win over Japan in the last 16.

That game saw Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli both come off the bench to score, the first time ever two substitutes have scored in a World Cup finals knockout round. Mousa Dembele or Adnan Januzaj, who scored a fine goal against England, never even got a chance to come off the bench. That only serves to highlight the depth of talent available to affable coach Roberto Martinez, who can call upon players like Thibaut Courtois, Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany.

Belgium made their fans suffer against the Japanese with their heroic fight back from 2-0 down to snatch victory with virtually the last kick of the game. Just as England saw their belief rise when they finally banished their penalty shootout ghost against Colombia, Belgium’s captain Vincent Kompany believes that their victory over Japan is a key moment in his country’s football history as they prepare to play Brazil for a place in the semifinals.

“It used to be in Belgian culture... we would feel defeated even before a game like this but all these players in our team, who play at clubs around the world, now believe 100 percent we can beat Brazil,” said Kompany.

A similar side fell at the same stage in 2014 and in the 2016 European Championships and Kompany accepts the importance of Friday’s match.

“The fact that the game against Brazil is defining for our generation is for sure, though... there is a level above, which we need to achieve. So it’s a defining game, but not just for us, it’s a defining game for Brazil as well,” explained the defender.

So many already believe this is Neymar’s World Cup, but if Belgium are near their best against Brazil, who knows; it could be Lukaku, Hazard and De Bruyne’s.  When fans talk about Brazil, they talk about one player; when they discuss Belgium they discuss the team.

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Brazil coach calls on players to be mentally fit ahead of Belgium clash

KAZAN Russia (Xinhua) -- Brazil coach Tite says he expects the quarterfinal match against Belgium on Friday evening to be a “great one”, and urged his players to be mentally strong facing their opponents.

“They are a strong attacking team. They have, technically, great value,” he said at the press conference in the Kazan Arena on Thursday afternoon. He noted that both Brazil and Belgium excel in playing beautiful football.    “They have several players who are very skilful, and a great coach as well,” he said. “I have always put them in the group of favorites (for the title). It is the same now.”

Brazil have won five World Cup titles, but Belgium are the tournament’s top goal scorers so far.

It is for this reason that he is stressing mental fortitude in the very decisive match. “Two weeks ago, I said to the players that you have to believe in the intensity we have,” he said. “Keep up the good work. We need a team that is mentally strong.”

He admitted that with the progression of the matches, he felt a little bit relaxed “because of the performance of the players”.

“They make me feel at ease,” he said. “I want them to grow in front of challenges.”

“In the last third of the pitch, we are very strong individually and very skilful. That’s what I tell them all the time: the coach works to get them well organised off the ball and in the build-up. But when we get to the last third it’s time for them to use their creativity,” he said.

He also talked about possibility of penalties. “Penalties are really hard,” he said.

He himself missed a penalty when he was a player more than three decades ago. “We do a lot of practice, and it is subject to emotional control,” he said. “You have to prepare yourself, and show your confidence to the teammates. “

Miranda, who is going to be captain for the match, said that the team has a huge task ahead of it.

“As the national team we have responsibility to play a top match. We know the difficulties the match is going to present. We are going to be focused, do our best, because we face a great opponent. “

Talking about his lineup, Tite said that Marcelo “is coming back.” Marcelo was injured in the game against Serbia. “I’ve spoken with both Marcelo and Filipe Luis. Filipe played very well in both matches. But now we are going with Marcelo again,” he said.

The coach also commented on Neymar.

“He knew the price he paid to come to the point,” said the 57-year-old tactician. “He resumed his work very quickly. He had quality passing and you could see how much he had been participating.”

The last time Brazil and Belgium faced each other was at the 2002 World Cup, when the Red Devils were beaten 2-0.

“What I look for (in) the athletes and myself is to keep the standard and keep growing,” he said. “Do your best. If your best is better than your opponent, you are likely to win.”

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The game against Brazil to be a test to see where we stand as a team

KAZAN Russia (Xinhua) -- The game against Brazil is going to be a test to see where we stand as a team, said Belgian footballer Romelu Lukaku on Thursday afternoon ahead of the quarterfinal match here in the Kazan Arena.

“We are going to play the best team, a favorite,” said the 25-year-old forward who had scored four goals at the Russia World Cup. “We have prepared thoroughly as a team. Nothing in life is easy. If you want to achieve, you have to fight.”

He recalled the match against Japan. “We had to fight till the last second to win,” he said.

The match in the knockout round was proved a tough one, in which Japan led for more than 20 minutes after scoring two goals, while Belgium staged a comeback, sealing the victory with a last-gasp goal.

Thomas Meunier, a defender from Paris Saint-Germain, crossed for Nacer Chadli to prod home while Lukaku stood in the front selling a dummy.

“I saw Thomas,” he said. Meunier was prevented from moving into the box. “Then I saw someone behind. I thought if I touched, it could be blocked. So I let it pass.”

“I think as a team we played well from beginning to the end,” he said. “We had a beautiful goal scored on counter-attack, a goal so that the team can move forward.”

The coach Roberto Martinez made two substitutions after the hour mark, which created dramatic effect.

“The overall message (from the match) is that you cannot only rely on the 11 players in the pitch when you come to a World Cup. Everyone should feel ready to contribute. It is important that the mentality of all the players is ready,” he said.

It is not going to be an easy game, Martinez said. “We are looking at the negative side. They are No. 2 in the world rankings and we respect them immensely. We are No. 3 and we know who we are. We have to be very basic. “

Brazil have won five World Cup titles, but Belgium are the tournament’s top goalscorers so far. Last time Brazil and Belgium faced each other at the 2002 World Cup, when the Red Devils were beaten 0-2.

“The two sides are similar in terms of quality of players,” he said. “The difference is that Brazil know how to win the World Cup. They are more experienced. They have a psychological advantage on us.”

Lukaku had a similar view. “(Weakness?) Not really,” he said. “I think they are defensively strong. They have players who can make a difference. They have attackers who are quite dangerous, and three to four good defenders. We should know how to attack.”

He praised Neymar as a skillful player, who maybe the future best player in the world. “We are happy to be playing against him,” he said.

But he denied that the match would be the most important one for him. “If we win, the match after that will be more important. Tomorrow’s match is a benchmark. We will try to win...(and) go as far as we can.”

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