Following Belgium’s unexpected World Cup loss to Morocco, Jan Vertonghen appeared to poke fun at teammates Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard.
As the penultimate opportunity for the Red Devils’ golden generation to win a championship, Roberto Martinez’s team fell far short of their potential as late goals from Romain Saiss and Zakaria Aboukhlal gave the Atlas Lions a 2-0 triumph.
When Belgium lost to France in the World Cup semifinals by a score of 1-0, De Bruyne and Hazard argued that an aging Belgium was better suited to win the tournament before the Group F matchup.
“We are too old. I think our chance [to win] was in 2018,” the Manchester City midfielder said. “We have a good team, but it is getting older.
“We lost key players. We have good new players coming in, but they are not at the level of other players in 2018. I see us more as underdogs.”
Skipper Hazard, who feels his side had “greater chances” of glory in Russia, added: “We don’t have the three fastest centre-backs in the world, but they know that.”
Belgium has scored the fewest goals through two World Cup games since the tournament’s inception in 1930 after scoring none against Morocco after defeating Canada 1-0. (none).
Vertonghen appeared to take a dig at his team-mates when addressing the media in the mixed zone following the loss. “I guess we attack badly because we are also too old up front,” he said.
Defeat to 2018 runners-up Croatia in their final Group F match on Thursday would result in an early exit from the competition, and Thibaut Courtois insists the Red Devils must raise their game.
“We know that Croatia are an excellent team, they have talent and are well-organised,” he said. “They are good at counter-attacks, one-on-one and have no flaws.
“It will be like a final – after all, they are the finalists of the last World Cup. So far, we haven’t played adequately in this tournament, if we want to win we have to level up.”