Mertens turns to Spanish teammate for World Cup winning tips
(Reuters) – Belgium midfielder Dries Mertens has turned to his Napoli teammate, former Spanish World Cup winner Pepe Reina, for advice on how best to try and win this year’s tournament in Russia.
But although Reina could not pinpoint specific tips for success, Mertens said Belgium must show the hunger and desire that Spain did in winning the World Cup in 2010, as well as back-to-back European Championships in 2008 and 2012.
“Pepe told me he couldn’t give me any concrete tips. He just said they had a young group that were hungry for success and also had a bit of luck along the way,” he told reporters as Belgium continued their World Cup preparations.
“We also need to show that hunger. We always have had it tough against the top teams. Just look at the friendly against Spain (in September 2016) where they played us off the park.
“We learnt we must not be afraid and we have to always go at full tilt.
“After we came back from losing the Euro 2016 quarter-final to Wales, there was a lot of pain. We had not realised that every match could be our last and that we had to put everything into it to go on to the next stage. But that realisation is there now and that we have to be a lot harder in our approach.
“We are not always strong in possession but in transition we have quality. Our greatest strength is to press with power and turn over the ball. The stamp of coach (Roberto) Martinez is now more visible.
“Under (previous coach) Marc Wilmots we played mostly man on man, but now we work together to put pressure on the opponent. I think that makes a big difference,” Mertens added.
Belgium play the first of three warm-ups in Brussels on Saturday against Portugal, followed by matches against Egypt and Costa Rica. At the World Cup they are in Group G with Panama, Tunisia and England.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Johannesburg; Editing by David Holmes)