Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne has labelled the criticism of his side’s World Cup campaign ‘stupid’, as they gear up for Tuesday’s last-16 tie with the USA.
Despite topping Group H with maximum points, Belgium’s displays in the wins over Algeria, Russia and South Korea were less than convincing, with many opting to revise their pre-tournament opinions on the summer’s supposed dark horses.
However, De Bruyne has rubbished such talk and moved quickly to deny that the media's pessimism on their chances has had an effect in the camp.
‘It’s not that important for us,’ he said. ‘As long as you score one more goal than the other team then everybody can say whatever they want. We just want to win the game and go as far as possible.
‘You will not find any easy games at this World Cup so I think it’s a little bit stupid for people to say we didn’t play well because I think we deserved to win the three games.’
A young revelation in Belgian football with Genk, De Bruyne signed for Chelsea in January 2012 for £7 million, staying at the Pro League club for the rest of the season before joining up with the Blues.
Sent out on a season-long loan to Werder Bremen the following campaign, the emerging winger scored 10 goals in 33 games during his Bundesliga stint, while being named the league’s Young Player of the Young in the process.
Finding playing opportunities under Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho hard to come by upon his return to Chelsea however, De Bruyne would feature in just nine games over the first-half of the 2013-14 season, while being publicly criticised by his manager for his efforts in training.
Subsequently returning to Germany in January with a £17 million move to Wolfsburg, the 23-year-old duly impressed enough during the final months of the campaign to secure a place in Belgium’s starting lineup for the World Cup, where his form has been one of the few bright spots of an otherwise underwhelming start to the tournament for the side.
A core member of the team’s 'Golden Generation', with 23 caps since making his debut in 2010 at 19, manager Marc Wilmots will be heavily relying on De Bruyne and his other attacking pieces against the not-to-be underestimated USA, as the Diables Rouges look to both quash the recent criticism and prove that the hype surrounding their promising squad is warranted.