TOULOUSE, France (AP) Belgium coach Marc Wilmots has told his players to step up a level when they take on Hungary in the last 16 of the European Championship on Sunday.
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Hungary has been one of the surprise packages of the tournament, while Belgium had mixed results in Group E — losing 2-0 to Italy, beating Ireland 3-0 and scraping a 1-0 win over Sweden in its final match.
“We don’t have the right to make any mistakes,” Wilmots said Saturday. “We talked together and I’m waiting for a better performance individually from my players. We have shown some kind of progress to some extent, but we can circulate the ball better and play a linked-up football.”
Belgium, ranked second in the world, was one of the pre-tournament favorites. But so far, it has been more entertaining than convincing.
“You enjoy watching our matches, because there’s a team who gives everything, goes on the attack, creates six or seven chances, and that’s what we’re always going to do,” Wilmots said. “Apart from that, you can always do better. But we need to be realistic, what counts, is to pass the round.”
One of the main criticisms of Belgium is that its much-vaunted attack has failed to light up the tournament.
A lot was expected from Manchester City’s attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, but he has failed to get into his stride, apart from a few flashes of his true ability in the match against Ireland.
“He can play better,” Wilmots said. “He could be a key player, that’s clear. Kevin put in an average performance against Italy, he was very average. Then he started to grow in the tournament.
“I see again a player who asks for the ball, who creates things, he is still not perfect in the last pass but he will develop. I see a Kevin who is smiling again, who is enjoying his football … everyone is a human being.”