Veteran defender Jan Vertonghen has hit back at Kevin De Bruyne‘s claim that Belgium are “too old” to win the World Cup, amid reports of a major dressing room bust-up following their chastening defeat at the hands of Morocco on Monday.
Belgium went down 2-0 to an impressive Morocco performance to leave themselves third in Group F with one game to play, a crucial showdown against group leaders Croatia.
Roberto Martinez’s side were the world’s No1 ranked side as recently as last year but their golden generation of talent is coming towards the end of its cycle and there is concern over the lack of suitable young replacements for stalwarts like the 35-year-old Vertonghen and his defensive partner Toby Alderweireld33.
In comments ahead of the tournament which seem to have caused a stir in the Belgian camp, star midfielder De Bruyne said in an interview with The Guardian they could not win the World Cup: “No chance, we’re too old.”
Belgium’s captain Eden Hazard added fuel to the fire ahead of the Morocco match, saying: “To be fair I think we had a better chance to win four years ago. The team was better four years ago but still we have the quality to win games and to win the competition.”
After the match, a clearly incensed Vertonghen had to bite his tongue, saying: “There’s so much going through my mind right now, things I shouldn’t say in the open air.”
But Vertonghen also said sarcastically: “Where did it go wrong? We probably also attack badly because we are too old, that must be it now, surely?”
He added: “We have a lot of quality up front, but so does Morocco, and they came out better today. This is very frustrating.”
Reports in the Belgian media suggest there was an altercation in the dressing room of the Al Thumama Stadium involving De Bruyne, Hazard and Vertonghen. RTL Sport said striker Romelu Lukaku had to step in as peacemaker.
Belgium face Croatia on Thursday at 3pm GMT while Morocco takes on Canada, who have been eliminated with two defeats.