Lionel Messi 'will not overawe Belgium'

ByIan Holyman ESPN logo
Sunday, July 6, 2014

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots has said he is confident that his young team will not be overawed by Lionel Messi when they face Argentina in Saturday's World Cup quarterfinal.

- Van Walle: Belgium ready for a new chapter vs. Argentina

- Caniggia wants support for Argentina star Messi

Back in 1986, Belgium were dazzled by Diego Maradona as they were beaten by Argentina in the semifinals, with his two goals ensuring his side's place in the final.

But Wilmots said there would be no repeat of that situation with Argentina's current talisman 28 years on, telling a news conference: "I assure you we won't watch Messi play -- we'll take charge of him collectively.

"When you shut down the space as the Swiss did [in the round of 16], that makes a player's life difficult regardless of how good he is.

"And if we turn defence into attack well, I'm curious to see how the Argentines respond. We're perhaps going to make a tweak or two, but the Argentines will also have to adapt. I already have a plan in my head.

"They have very good players capable of turning a game, such as [Angel] Di Maria and Messi, but they lack balance. We won't be favourites, but we can match the Argentines in mental and physical terms and go through to the semifinals."

The Belgium coach said Argentina "are perhaps better on paper, but that doesn't count in these kinds of matches."

Meanwhile, veteran Bayern Munich defender Daniel Van Buyten, who produced an outstanding performance in the thrilling 2-1 win over the U.S., said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann had urged him to reconsider his decision to quit international football after the tournament.

"He came to tell me that he had found me extraordinary. He also told me that I should enjoy these moments, but told me that he didn't really understand my decision to end my career after the World Cup," he said. "He advised me to continue given my form.

"I said before the tournament that I was perhaps going to stop, but nothing is set in stone. After the World Cup, I'll take a break, and I'll take advantage of that to talk with my family. We'll decide my future together."

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