Pablo Zabaleta tears into Belgium’s ‘mentality’ and says he would be ‘FUMING’ in the dressing room after Kevin De Bruyne suggested they are TOO OLD to win the World Cup – but Argentine thinks ‘mind games’ are at play
Argentina and Manchester City legend Pablo Zabaleta has questioned Belgium’s desire to win the World Cup as they prepare for their second group f match against Morocco on Sunday.
37-year-old Zabaleta made just seven World Cup appearances as he played every minute in Argentina’s run to a 2014 World Cup final defeat against Germany.
But the retired two-time Premier League title-winning star doesn’t believe Belgium’s fading ‘golden generation’ possess the mentality to go all the way in Qatar, after talisman Kevin de Bruyne played down talk of seriously challenging for the World Cup.
Belgium players aren’t showing the correct World Cup mentality according to Pablo Zabaleta
Kevin de Bruyne has dampened Belgian spirits that the nation can win the World Cup
De Bruyne, recognised by many as currently the best midfielder in the world, insisted he views his nation as ‘outsiders’ and admits the team’s ‘ageing’ squad had their best chance at success in 2018.
Zabaleta has admitted his disbelief at De Bruyne’s comments and insists he would be ‘fuming’ if he was an older player inside the Belgium dressing room.
Speaking as a pundit on BBC, Zabaleta said: ‘My big concern about Belgium is the things players saying we’re not the team we used to be.
De Bruyne is one of the world’s most in-form midfielders
‘That’s not the mentality you bring into the World Cup. They still have enough good players to win and beat anybody. If I’m one of the senior players here I’m fuming.
‘Maybe they’re playing some mind games. They have two or three players who aren’t young but some of the rest of the team.’
‘Compared to Croatia/Uruguay I don’t hear them complaining about the ageing squad. It’s not the quality. They still have good enough players but if you complain about all those things it’s going to be very difficult. It’s not the right mentality.’
Belgium’s experienced veterans had their confidence knocked heading into the Middle East tournament as they were knocked off top spot in FIFA’s world rankings, with Qatar representing a final major tournament for many of their players.
De Bruyne and Belgium enter the World Cup as underdogs with their talented squad featuring world-beaters that have enjoyed countless moments of club success.
Argentina and Manchester City legend Zabaleta has blasted Belgium’s tournament mentality
Captain Eden Hazard will be hoping to emulate the form that landed him a big-money move to Real Madrid, while midfielder De Bruyne is aiming to replicate success with Man City on the international stage.
Roberto Martinez’s side will be hoping to build on Belgium’s best-ever World Cup finish in 2018 and will secure knockout stage qualification if they beat Morocco on Sunday.