Kevin De Bruyne has warned Belgium will face a stiff test as they look to kick-start their Euro 2016 campaign against the Republic of Ireland.
Considered favourites for a long run in the tournament before kick-off, Belgium opened their campaign with an insipid performance against Italy, who ran out 2-0 winners in Lyon.
Ireland drew 1-1 with Sweden in their first game, taking the lead through Wes Hoolahan before a tired defence was breached as Ciaran Clark turned Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s cross into his own net.
De Bruyne admits that Belgium are yet to live up to their reputation, having topped the FIFA rankings in the past year, and has declared Saturday’s game a “moment of truth”.
“Ireland have done well,” said De Bruyne. “Their style of play can cause a lot of problems and I think is difficult for any rival. Even before the tournament I said this was the key game because it could decide the group.
“The physical power of the Irish players and their results in qualifying show the level of the team has risen a lot. They’re very dangerous – they are the silent outsider in this group. We have to beware. They have a lot of unity and that’s a big virtue in the team.”
He continued: “When we looked at the group we knew it would be hard. Italy, Ireland and Sweden are all complicated rivals. Our first challenge is just to get through this phase and we will have to work very hard to do it. It won’t be easy.
“We had an excellent qualifying campaign, so it’s normal that expectation has been increased, but now is the moment of truth.
“We have flattered to deceive in the past but now is the moment to give our fans a special moment to remember.”
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