Football Soccer De Bruyne hails Belgium improvement ahead of Euro 2024
Football Soccer De Bruyne hails Belgium improvement ahead of Euro 2024

Football: Soccer-De Bruyne hails Belgium improvement ahead of Euro 2024 opener

FRANKFURT, Germany (Reuters) – Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is feeling no ill-effects of an injury-plagued season with Manchester City and aims to lead his in-form country to the European Championship title as they prepare for their Group E opener against Slovakia on Monday.

De Bruyne started 15 games in the Premier League last season as a long-term hamstring injury kept him sidelined, but is feeling fresh with several new youngsters in the Belgium squad, a positive new energy around the team.

“It was a long time out and other niggles are normal after such a period on the sidelines,” De Bruyne told reporters on Sunday. “But the last three or four months I played a lot of games at a good level, in my view anyway. I am ready to help Belgium do something good at this tournament.”

Injuries limited De Bruyne to four caps in the 18 months since Belgium’s calamitous first round exit at the World Cup in Qatar.

“Qatar is over, we can’t change things there positively or negatively. It was a disappointment but there is a new coach (Domenico Tedesco) and this is a new tournament.”

Belgium, who will have central defenders Jan Vertonghen and Arthur Theate fit for the Slovakia game, are ranked number three in the world by FIFA but De Bruyne shied away from suggestions they are one of the Euro 2024 favourites.

“I wouldn’t say our squad is the third best in the world right now, but in a tournament the rankings do not matter. We are in a positive flow and I feel the team is ready. We are not the favourites and it is difficult to say where we should be ranked.”

De Bruyne is enjoying the style of play under Tedesco, who is unbeaten in his 15 games in charge since taking over from Roberto Martinez in February 2023.

“At my age, I have played under a number of different coaches who had their own styles, and I have always had to adapt,” he said.

“I am on the same wavelength with the coach, he wants to play in an aggressive manner and for us to be aggressive up front.

“I think we have made progress as a team and will continue to do so.”

De Bruyne adds they have done their homework on Slovakia and are expecting a difficult encounter.

“The important thing for them is the triangle in the midfield, they are the guys who put Slovakia together with and without the ball,” he said.

“They have good defenders and pacey wingers. We know what to expect and we need to be at our best level to win.”

(Reporting by Nick Said; additional reporting by Jonas Wollrab; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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