Argentina vs Belgium World Cup 2014: Marc Wilmots lashes out at gamesmanship of ‘ordinary’ conquerors
Wilmots believes Lionel Messi was given too much protection and that time wasting was not picked up on
Marc Wilmots, the Belgium manager, last night launched an extraordinary attack on Argentina, accusing them of being an “ordinary” team who had employed gamesmanship to secure a World Cup quarter-final win over his side which he said they did not deserve.
The Belgians were actually resoundingly beaten by an Argentina with great know-how, who secured a first-half lead and closed down the game.
Belgium’s disappointing performance was typified by Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, who failed to make any impression on the match.
But Wilmots did little to enhance his reputation by attacking what he called Argentinian negative tactics, accusing the referee of favouritism towards Lionel Messi and then concluding his press conference by stating: “We need to lose gracefully. That’s what I’m doing.”
Wilmots said Argentina’s manager, Alex Sabella, had only wanted to destroy the game. “How many shots did Argentina have?” he asked.
“Seriously. If we’d played this way we’d have been destroyed by the Belgian press. We are disappointed to go home.”
He also depicted the opposition – who will learn today whether Angel di Maria’s thigh injury will prevent him from playing in Wednesday’s semi-final – as a team of fewer talents than his own.
“When you look at Argentina, they have Di Maria and Messi who are top five players,” he said. “They play with what is available. We have a collective but Argentina depends on three, four, five attacking players who can make a decisive impact in the team. I’ve rarely seen Argentina cramp up like they did. They had been stretched. If we’d equalised in the last few minutes, they would be dead. Finished.”
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Messi could have been booked in the first half when leaving his foot in after a challenge and this also angered Wilmots.
“Messi is the star player, the player who gives them rhythm,” he said. “He never loses the ball. But he made a couple of fouls and I noticed the referee never gave a foul against him.
“I don’t want to be a cry baby, but I noticed the referee never gives fouls against Argentina. He made three fouls and no yellow card. We had one foul, and a yellow card.
“But I’m not complaining about the refereeing. We move on. I’m thinking about how we move on and build from this.”
Wilmots, whose decision to start with teenager Divock Origi did not work, pinpointed two errors form his own side which he said were significant. Captain Vincent Kompany passing straight to Javier Mascherano before the move which gave Argentina their goal and Origis’s replacement, Romelu Lukakau, passing when he should simply have taken aim, in the second half.
Wilmots also cited fatigue after the extra time needed in the round of 16 game against the United States.
“We were on top and Vincent [Kompany] came forward with the ball, then they steal it and score,” he reflected. “One small mistake... We’re incredibly sorry we’ve lost and you could sense the disappointment in the dressing room. But we are the youngest side in the tournament and we’ve learned from this.”
Sabella’s press conference was concluded before Wilmots’s points could be put to him. He described the game as tactically astute one for Argentina. Though Higuain was named man of the match, Sabella concentrated his praise on Messi’s contribution again.
“He never loses the ball – or almost never,” Sabella said. “He occupies three players every time he has it, so he gives us water in the desert. Water in the desert. Today, when it was dry, he gave us that breath of fresh air every time he held onto the ball.”
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