Life at the back is never straightforward for Belgium's Frederik Spruyt, who on matchday two swapped the language issues he encounters at centre-back for an unfamiliar role on the left.
Alongside captain Corentin Fiore at the heart of Belgium's back line on the opening day of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, Spruyt was moved out wide on Monday. Belgium duly delivered by keeping out the Netherlands, who found the net in all but one of their six qualifiers en route to Slovenia, to keep themselves in the hunt for a semi-final place going into their final Group B fixture against the hosts on Thursday.
"Normally I play centre-back," said Spruyt. "Sometimes that's difficult because [Fiore and I] speak different languages. He speaks French and I speak Dutch, but at least my French is not bad and he is a great captain. I can understand enough of him! He is a good leader but being vocal is also one of my qualities. I try to talk to my team-mates to improve their game.
"Even though I am right footed, against the Netherlands I played on the left because my strength is one on one. I also play in the centre for my club and have only once played left-back in my career. I don't go forward very much but I think I am strong defensively and in the air."
Fiore and Spruyt, however, have been just two cogs in an impressive Belgian defensive unit which has been breached only once at the finals, when Poland No9 Mariusz Stępiński pounced on a misplaced pass. Part of the secret, according to Spruyt, is their organisation at set pieces.
"We don't mark man to man, but in zones," he said. "We just have to take the players that come into our own zone. It doesn't matter whether it's the No10, the No9 or any other player – you just have to make sure he doesn't score. We learn it when we are young so we have all played it for a long time. Most teams in Belgium use zonal marking."
As resilient as they are defensively, Belgium have also caught the eye with their ability to pass out from the back. "I love to play on the ground, long balls are not my style," said Spruyt. "I like [Gerard] Piqué from Barcelona in particular, he plays football from the back."
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