Youri Tielemans has identified what makes absent Belgium teammate Kevin De Bruyne such a “special player” ahead of their Euro 2020 quarterfinal against Italy on Friday.
Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez declared that Manchester City midfielder De Bruyne will miss the quarter after sustaining an ankle knock in their last-16 win over Portugal. De Bruyne was also absent from training on Wednesday.
De Bruyne, who missed Belgium’s opening 3-0 win over Russia with a facial injury, has scored one goal and provided two assists during Euro 2020, helping the Red Devils win all four games, meaning Martinez has a difficult job replacing him.
“Kevin is a special player because in my opinion, he always makes the right decision, even if you think he misplaces a pass, it’s not,” Tielemans said during a news conference ahead of the quarterfinals.
“Always does something in his mind, always makes the right decision, very efficient, has a lot of assists or goals, that helps our team a lot.”
He added: “As a team we have to create more options on the ball, move more, and make the right choices.
“Maybe we were under pressure a little bit, second half against Portugal, they had a lot of offensive options on the pitch, made it difficult for us to get out of there, as a team we have to find those solutions.”
De Bruyne was replaced early in the second half against Portugal due to injury, before Belgium survived a barrage of pressure, with the 2016 European champions ending with 23-6 shots.
Belgium, who finished third at the 2018 World Cup and lost in the quarters at the 2016 Euros, ground out the win in a sign of maturity according to Tielemans.
“We learnt lessons from 2018, we’re more realistic, we play nice football, certain matches we have a lot of possession, create chances,” the Leicester City midfielder said.
“Like you saw against Portugal there’s moments you have to suffer as a team, you might not get many opportunities, you have to score them, that’s where we learned from Russia, to be efficient, decisive in the right moment, when we have an opportunity to score we remember that from 2018.”
23 – Belgium faced 23 shots against Portugal, the most they’ve faced since allowing 27 shots against Brazil in 2018 in a World Cup match, with this their 35th game since. Stoic. #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/CuRuaoSiZR
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 27, 2021
Forward Dries Mertens is one candidate to come into the Belgium XI to replace De Bruyne against Italy, having replaced him against Portugal.
Mertens plays his club football with Napoli in Serie A, and added that quarterfinal opponents Italy appeared full of confidence.
“I’ve seen they have a lot more confidence now, they’ve played many matches and won a lot without giving goals away,” he said.
“It gives confidence, experienced players but also young players, the way they celebrate when they win, many people didn’t expect that, it gives them a lot of confidence.”
The 34-year-old also added there was no thought about Euro 2020 being his or this generation of Belgian players’ last chance to win a trophy.
“No, not really,” he said. “We do need to be realistic, realise we’re here now, we have a chance, you don’t get chances with a national team to win, every two years you have one chance to win one trophy, its very little.
“We’ve been doing well for a few years now, this is a chance we need to take, we have great facilities, we have great staff, people who know where we want to go.
“Those are important moments, I believe in the future of the Belgium team. This is a chance we have to take.”