King Albert on this team of Belgian talent and THAT chip
to bamboozle Peter the great
23:01 GMT, 1 June 2012
Philippe Albert, the Belgian who wowed England with that chip for Newcastle against Manchester United 16 years ago, talks John Edwards through the golden generation of Belgium footballers who take on England at Wembley.
Party time: Philippe Albert celebrates his strike against Manchester United
But first, that goal in 1996… Manchester United were already trailing 4-0, before a disbelieving St James’ Park crowd, when Newcastle’s imposing centre back transferred a Rob Lee pass on to his left foot and nonchalantly chipped a stranded Peter Schmeichel from more than 20 yards to round off one of the performances and results of the 1990s.
‘I only ever had one thought in mind, after getting the ball and taking a couple of paces towards their area,’ said Albert. ‘I knew Schmeichel would expect me to thump it and would come off his line to try and cut down the angle, so it was always my intention to chip him.
‘Sure enough, he moved forward quickly and that was my chance. I just needed to execute it properly, and fortunately I did. It was a magical moment, seeing it float over him and drop into the net, and I just went on a slalom run, past one team-mate after another, before sliding along the turf near the halfway line.’
Safe hands: Belgium's keepers Simon Mignolet and Thibaut Courtois
Now a forthright television pundit in Belgium, Albert expects the current squad to reach the 2014 World Cup finals:
Just edging out Thibaut Courtois, which goes to show we have two excellent young goalkeepers who are going to serve us well for the next 12 to 15 years. Great reflexes make him an excellent shot-stopper but he needs to work a bit on dealing with crosses.
The full back positions are our main problem. Toby Alderweireld was pencilled in for right back before being injured but is actually a centre half. Gillet will replace him but he’s a right-sided midfielder. Not ideal, but the experienced Anderlecht man is steady enough and won’t let anyone down.
Needs little introduction after his fantastic season for Manchester City. Never found wanting for pace, good in the air, sure in the tackle and can bring the ball out of defence. There’s not much more you could ask of a centre half. Will surely lead us to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
Solid as a rock: Vincent Kompany is a key part of the Belgian defence
Rightly regarded as a key component of Arsenal’s defence and I just hope he can repeat his club form at Wembley. He should be one of the reasons for being optimistic about our World Cup campaign, but I’m not sure Vermaelen always produces the same level for club and country. He’s not the only one, either.
As I was saying, full back is a problem. This guy is a top centre half, skipper of Ajax’s title-winning team, but he will be playing left back today. Fortunately for us, he still looks a class act wherever he plays, and if Tottenham finally manage to sign him, they will be getting an accomplished defender.
Dynamic performer for Everton and very important part of our midfield. I’m just not convinced he reaches the same level for the national team as he does in an Everton shirt. Whatever the reason, that needs putting right, because he really is crucial to the chances of this Belgium squad fulfilling their potential.
Hair raising: Marouane Fellaini (left) impressed for Everton last season
A real all-round midfielder who can tackle, take care of the ball, win his share of headers and score goals. There has been interest in him from English clubs and no wonder. But I’m not sure we see his Benfica form at international level. Another challenge for whoever gets the manager’s job.
His selection would appear to be down to his performance in the last game against Montenegro, when Belgium drew 2-2. Mirallas scored and was a constant threat. He can play wide or up front, where he shone for Olympiakos last season as the Greek league’s top scorer and player of the year.
You are about to see what all the fuss is about. Never mind playing for the team, it’s the other way round with him. Just give him the ball and let him show how, technically, he’s already one of the best in the world. A real No 10 and that must be his position for Chelsea. You build a team round a talent like this.
Pass master: Belgium's midfield maestro Eden Hazard is highly rated
Another emerging talent who is making a favourable impression at PSV Eindhoven and now has the chance to show he can thrive on the international stage, in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley. He’s not a left-sided midfielder but may have to play there, such are the options in the central positions.
It’s better for him that he is used in his best position, as an attacking central midfielder, but may find himself leading the line today. Was often played out of position under the previous coach, which did him no favours. Fulham use him properly, and just look how he responds. Great talent.