Faes out to make his mark with Belgium
Sunday, 17 May 2015
He has an uncanny resemblance to David Luiz and plays in the same position as the Brazilian: meet Belgium's Wout Faes, who is determined to "make my own name in the game".
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It is difficult to miss Wout Faes. Conspicuous by his David-Luiz style locks, the Belgium captain is a distinctive presence on the field and around the 2015 UEFA European Under-17 Championship tournament hotel. That he and the Paris Saint-Germain player both operate at centre-back only strengthens the comparison.
It is one that is not lost on the amiable 17-year-old, who is on the books of RSC Anderlecht. "I hear that a lot," he told UEFA.com. "I know it's because of my hair and playing in the same position as him, but I will try to make my own name in the game."
He is doing just that in Bulgaria, having led Bob Browaeys' squad to the last four – Belgium's best performance at the finals since a side featuring Christian Benteke and Eden Hazard reached the same stage on home soil in 2007.
It has not all been plain sailing for Faes, however: he was suspended for the last group fixture against Slovenia, a match the Red Devils needed three points from to be sure of making the knockout phase. "If we hadn't of won there was a chance I wouldn't have played any more," he said. "I was very happy that we did and went through to the quarter-finals."
Confident and relaxed, Faes was speaking less than 24 hours after Belgium's shoot-out victory over Croatia, a tactical contest that finished 1-1 after 80 tense minutes in Burgas. "I was very nervous watching the penalties, that's normal, because they are always tricky," he recalled. "At the end I couldn't believe it.
"It's really good that we have qualified for the semi-finals and the [FIFA U-17] World Cup, so it's a great feeling. Nobody thought we – Belgium, such a little country – could achieve that. If we can beat Croatia in the quarter-finals we have to dream of going far in the competition."
The tournament is not Faes' first major continental engagement. At 17, he was one of the more junior performers in this season's UEFA Youth League, making half a dozen appearances in Anderlecht's run to the semi-finals.
His sixth and last outing was a start against FC Barcelona in the round of 16 at Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, where a then competition record crowd of 12,871 watched Les Mauves et Blanc eliminate the holders. "It is a great experience for every young player to be in the UEFA Youth League," said Faes. "It was a shame we lost to Shakhtar [in Nyon last month], but overall it was great for someone as young as me."
A composed defender who likes to model his game on that of Thiago Silva, Sergio Ramos and Belgium's own Vincent Kompany, Faes is at the right club to realise his professional ambitions. This term alone his Anderlecht team-mates Aaron Leya Iseka and Andy Kawaya have made their senior debuts – the latter featuring in the UEFA Champions League against Arsenal FC and Galatasaray AŞ – while Youri Tielemans burst on to the scene in 2013 and is now a regular.
"The youth department at Anderlecht is very good for players because of the Purple Talents programme that allows us to combine studying with football," explained Faes when asked what the secret is behind the Brussels club's production line. "It means I can get a diploma while developing myself as a player."
Studying economics and languages, Faes is well-placed to emulate Kompany and Anthony Vanden Borre, two defenders who broke through at Anderlecht as teenagers before moving abroad. "It's a dream for me to get into the first team and maybe then go higher, ideally to the Bundesliga or the Premier League," he said. "That's my biggest dream, but step by step I have to build my career and first of all get into Anderlecht's senior side. Those leagues would suit my playing style and I like them a lot."