Belgium coach Marc Wilmots says his players can handle the pressure of Saturday’s vital Group E clash with Republic of Ireland, insisting football is “not life and death”.
Wilmots’ side are facing an early exit from Euro 2016, despite being the top-ranked team in the tournament, after suffering a 2-0 loss to Italy in their first match.
Republic of Ireland drew 1-1 with Sweden in their opener, so neither team can afford to lose in Bordeaux on Saturday, but Wilmots is unconcerned about the media attention on Belgium.
“I’ve played in four World Cups, so let’s take 2002. We had two draws and everyone killed us, so we’re used to that,” Wilmots said.
“It’s not life and death. Our aim is to do the best we can. All the time sides are scrapping to win things, the coin might fall on one side or another.
“Before coming here I knew that could happen, it’s football. It doesn’t bother me and my players all play for top clubs. They’re used to pressure.
“Of course you need to have confidence. We haven’t lost too many games in my time in charge. I don’t like losing and I hope to see a reaction tomorrow on the pitch.”
Wilmots hinted Belgium could adopt a different tactical approach for the game against Ireland after being overpowered by a strong Italy side.
“You need to be aggressive at the right time, that’s what grit is all about,” Wilmots said. “Italians make fouls at a good time, that’s what experience is all about.
“You want to play football but sometimes you need to make the right fouls at the right time, that’s how you win games. I can’t hold anything against the players.
“The Irish aren’t a tall side particularly, but they play between the lines a lot. We need to see where the spaces are and what their system is.
“We mustn’t all charge forward at once, you have to manage that, link up the play.”
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