Wilmots, Lukaku and Witsel on transformed Belgium
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Marc Wilmots explained the tactical changes and selection decisions that helped Belgium win 3-0 against a Republic of Ireland side trying quickly to turn their focus to Italy on Wednesday.
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Marc Wilmots, Belgium coach
We analysed Ireland's first game and chose a different strategy today. We knew if they played in a diamond we could push our full-backs up, so we chose to play short passes on the ground and that's how we won.
We spoke privately between the games; we knew the team wanted to give their all, they had to be mentally ready and that goes for the players on the bench too,
The choice with Mousa Dembélé was simple. He keeps the ball well, and when we have Mousa and Axel Witsel playing, one of them needs to stay back. We did well in training and I wanted technical players today. It's a shame he's injured, he's sprained his ankle, but I can't say how he will be. I hope he's OK.
Unity is very important. We win and lose together. With Romelu Lukaku, we wanted to give him some confidence. I think he scored four goals in four matches but when he missed against Italy everyone was saying it's all different. I just needed to explain things to him and make sure he knew I trusted him. He did what I expected today.
Martin O'Neill, Republic of Ireland manager
I'm not so sure that you just forget it immediately: you have to analyse the performance and see where mistakes were made during the course of the game. The first goal was vitally important and that came from our attack; it was our free-kick, the ball's played in the penalty area, and they've broken on us and scored the goal as they're capable of doing – a very fine Belgian side.
So that goal was very, very important for us. And then as we started to chase the game we got caught a few times, and Belgium put the game beyond us.
I think the natural thing has been that we're a bit disappointed with our performance considering how well we played a few days ago against Sweden. Don't take anything away from Belgium, they're a very fine side, but we've got to win this game now against Italy. We feel as though if we freshen ourselves up again, that we're ready to go.
Romelu Lukaku, Belgium forward
I think we played well in attack and we played well in defence too. We did what we needed to do: we needed the three points and we got them, playing very well. And the result was also convincing. So we can only be positive.
Italy are a very good team with a fantastic coach. That was a bit of a setback, but it woke us up for today's match. Today everything we did on the ball was good, our defence was solid, and we forwards did what was expected of us. It was all positive. Now we have to make sure that we only grow during the tournament and keep playing better and better.
Axel Witsel, Belgium midfielder and man of the match
Today the whole team put in a great performance. In the first half we really didn't give Ireland any chances and we were constantly in their half, creating a lot of chances first half. At half-time we said that we needed to keep pushing forward and the hardest thing was simply to get that first goal. After that we then managed to get a few goals.
It's what we needed after what's been a tough week for us. We've worked really hard and were both mentally and physically ready for today, and well done to the whole team as we put in a great performance.
Absolutely, it was our aim to go out there and take all three points, and in the next game against Sweden we need to replicate this performance.
I think the fans really helped us today. There were a lot of them here and there was a fantastic atmosphere – this win is for them.
John O'Shea, Ireland captain
The big thing for us was to make sure we started the second half that bit quicker, that bit better in possession, and we didn't do that. We left ourselves too open to that counterattack. Look Belgium are a good team, don't get me wrong, but we have a big chance against Italy.
We know if we get the win against Italy ... We know it's difficult, believe me, Italy have been fantastic in their first two games, but we have to take the positives from the first half, and the game against Sweden as well. And if we do that, with a bit more discipline and control, I think we can get something from Italy.