Jan Vertonghen has hits back at Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard after Belgium’s shock loss to Morocco at the World Cup on Sunday.
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The Red Devils stumbled past Canada in their first group game but their luck ran out against Morocco, with goals from Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal securing a 2-0 victory for the African team.
Belgium’s woes were even compounded later in the day when Croatia beat Canada 4-1, meaning Roberto Martinez’s side slipped to third in the group and need to win their last match.
Speaking prior to their defeat on Sunday, De Bruyne had predicted the result when he completely wrote off his team’s chances of winning the World Cup because they are ‘too old’ – with Belgium having the oldest average age of any team in Qatar.
Asked about his side’s chances of winning the competition, the Manchester City midfielder told The Guardian over the weekend: ‘No chance, we’re too old.
‘I think our chance was 2018. We have a good team, but it is ageing. We lost some key players. We have some good new players coming, but they are not at the level other players were in 2018. I see us more as outsiders.’
Hazard had been more specific in his critique of Belgium’s shortcomings before the game, telling EFE: ‘Our defenders are not the fastest and they know that.’
After the defeat to Morocco, Vertonghen has had a little dig of his own at his two long-time team-mates and said it was not only the defence who were getting on a bit.
In the mixed zone after the game, unprompted, the former Tottenham player said: ‘I guess we attack badly because we are also too old up front.’
More thoughtfully, he added: ‘We didn’t create enough chances. We conceded the same goal twice at the near post.
‘It’s very frustrating and things aren’t going the way we want at present, but we have the weapons to move and get something from the third game [vs Croatia].’
Belgium head coach Martinez was asked about De Bruyne’s comments after the defeat to Morocco and he replied: ‘This is the first time I’ve heard those comments from Kevin.
‘At a World Cup, the players have to speak to the media every day, 90% of it will be positive but there are always one or two lines that don’t fit into the context.
‘A player is allowed to air their view. We’ve been together for six years now and comments won’t help us to win. Maybe it was a double-bluff. It’s what happens behind the scenes that matters.’