In the beginning of the knockout phase, in matches such as Brazil-Chile and Costa Rica-Greece, it was clear that World Cup progress can rely on how well you take penalties. The Red Devils (the Belgian footbal team’s nickname), however, have not yet carried out specific spot-kick practise sessions for the match against the United States.
“We could do it, but it is not an obligation because you never know who will be ready or off the pitch when the penalties come round,” says Marc Wilmots. But I’m thinking of seven players whose names would certainly be on my list.”
It seems the players are ready to take responsibility if asked. “We will do everything not to get that point where penalties are need,” said Kevin Mirallas. “But if have to take one, I’ll take it.”
As for Daniel Van Buyten, who is not a spot-kick specialist but has exuded confidence since the beginning of the World: “I won’t run and hide.”
It’s the same story from Dries Mertens, who, assuming he plays, claims to be ready to take one. “I scored three penalty kicks this season with Naples and PSV Eindhoven, and I also had a habit of giving them away.”
Many commentators are not enamoured by Belgium’s standard of football so far.
“Even if it was not going to be difficult to emerge from this group H, which was the weakest of all, no one disputes the fact that the results obtained by the Red Devils in the first round are excellent,” said Eddy Snelders, the former assistant coach who is currently working in Brazil as a consultant for VRT radio. “But we can’t be blinded. In terms of the standard of play, I am hungry for better, and I’m not alone. I may be harsh, but something better is expected of a team that we compare to the big teams. I saw better play in several games in the qualifying campaign, against Serbia, Croatia and Scotland. So far, we can only really be satisfied with the defence and Origi and Witsel.”
The game kicks off at 22h00 in Salvador.