|Russian players during a training session, on Friday
Mogi Das Cruzes: Marouane Fellaini believes Belgium can justify their outsiders tag and win the World Cup for the first time ever.
The 26-year-old put aside a difficult maiden season with Manchester United after a £27.5million transfer from Everton and scored with a superb header in the 2-1 win over Algeria in Belgium’s World Cup opener on Monday.
His goal couldn’t have been timed better as he seeks to convince new United boss Louis van Gaal that he is worth persevering with when the Dutch national coach takes over the reins at Old Trafford after the World Cup concludes.
While the Belgians were slow to get into their rhythm against Algeria, they looked more like the side that went undefeated through the qualifiers by the end of the match when Dries Mertens scored the winner.
“Belgium are capable of winning the World Cup,” the Fifa website quoted Fellaini as saying. “If that proves the case, I promise that I will shave my hair,” he quipped.
Fellaini, whose father is a former professional goalkeeper, received rave reviews for his performance when he came on as a substitute against Algeria and with the Belgians trailing 0-1. His equaliser set the stage for Mertens to send Belgium to the top of Group H.
“The Fellaini of United and that of Belgium is the same player,” he said. “They (United) bought me a year ago. There have been the good moments and the bad ones. I was injured, there was a change of coach, and the team wasn’t playing well.
“We will see next season. I will try to be better.”
Fellaini said he hadn’t regarded the game against Algeria as a case of proving himself and his attention is set firmly on helping his country towards their first Cup title. “For me, the match was not a case of answering my critics,” he said.
“I don’t owe anybody anything. My goal is to score for the team, for my family and for the country. I had a difficult season but now, I am at the World Cup and I am focussed on the national team.”
Meanwhile, coach Marc Wilmots expects injured captain Vincent Kompany to be back in training on Saturday, the eve of Belgium’s crucial tie against Russia.
Kompany was undergoing treatment for a strain in his groin, a problem that kept him out of with the group since Tuesday’s victory over Algeria.
Wilmots said that he will take no risk whatsoever with Vincent, who is counted upon for his leadership and his outstanding qualities as a central defender. “We are in a good position and this is no time to do crazy things,” the coach remarked.
With three points from one game, Belgium are certainly on top of the group with Russia playing out a 1-1 draw with South Korea. But as the entire Belgium rightly believes, they do need to work hard to ensure victory over the Russians.
Full points from this game, though, will make it smoother for the Belgians to advance to the knockout stage.
And to make sure they get full points, Belgium first need to avoid the glitches in their performance that were visible, especially during the first half against Algeria. Precisely, those mistakes were the main reason behind their trailing by a goal in the first half.
Such errors could prove extremely costly against a better unit in Russia, who aren't the ones to cave in like newcomers Algeria.