'It was important to get some things off our chest' - Belgium squad held meeting over De Bruyne & Vertonghen age remarks, admits Castagne
- Belgium on brink of elimination
- Tensions between Vertongen and De Bruyne
- Castagne revealed meeting to clear the air
WHAT HAPPENED? Despite being second in FIFA's men's rankings, Belgium currently sit third in Group F of the 2022 World Cup behind Croatia and Morocco. Rifts in the camp have been reported amid off-field tension between Kevin De Bruyne and defender Jan Vertongen, with the Manchester City man claiming his side were “too old” to win the competition following a laboured 1-0 victory over Canada in their group opener. After defeat to Morocco in their second game, Vertonghen responded by saying: ''Where did it go wrong? We probably also attack badly because we are too old, that must be it now, surely?''
WHAT THEY SAID: Castagne has revealed Belgium players were called to sit down and discuss these tensions, which he refused to label a "crisis meeting".
''I think it was very important for us to have that meeting, but it wasn’t a crisis meeting as you might have heard from some quarters,'' the Leicester full-back explained in a press conference. ''It was important to get some things off our chest and share our views, but it didn’t get out of hand. It was important to share how we felt and share our ideas on how we can improve.
''I don’t think Kevin meant anything bad. We know that Italy won the Euros with Bonucci and Chiellini at the back, so age isn’t always a factor. I don’t think we should be focusing on one or two players who might not have been playing to the best of their ability. We’re all in it together. We all know we can play better. I don’t think age is a factor. I just think we played badly.''
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Castagne went on to admit that Belgium need to work on their togetherness in order to show their full potential on the pitch. ''Yes, I think we were united as a group, but perhaps not enough," he admitted. "If you want to go far in the World Cup, you need to be united and you need to be able to fight together with your team-mates. Maybe we weren’t showing that enough. I think the meeting was helpful in that respect.''
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DID YOU KNOW? Belgium have scored just one goal at the 2022 World Cup, only scoring fewer after two matches at the 1930 edition (0). They had scored eight goals at the same stage in 2018.
WHAT NEXT FOR BELGIUM? Belgium will go out in the group stages for the first time since 1998 if they fail to beat Croatia on Thursday.