In modern-day football, a coach is as instrumental as his players to the success of the team. Matches are played well before the kickoff time as coaches spend hours to choose the tactics that not only suit the team but can help them beat the opposition as well. Some coaches can come up with brilliant strategies that can help the team beat anyone. Some coaches though rely on the brilliance of their players to make up for their own tactical inflexibility. Unfortunately for Belgium, Marc Wilmots belongs to the second category. The Red Devils entered Euro 2016 as the highest ranked European side according to FIFA rankings. On paper, they were the best side in the tournament. On the field however, things were just not working out. Sure, injuries robbed the team of its key players, but majority of the blame must fall on the coach for his own inability to get the best of his talented squad. Here are some decisions that the Belgian coach got horribly wrong at the Euros.
In their first game of the tournament, the Belgium team was outclassed by what is described as the ‘worst’ Italian team in many years. Antonio Conte’s men defied expectations and put up a stellar performance and Belgium were found lacking both imagination and inspiration. However, they bounced back with three victories against relatively easier opponents. In the quarterfinals, they faced Wales, a team that uses the 3-5-2 formation, similar to the Italians. One would expect a coach to learn from his mistakes. But Marc Wilmots chose to stick with the same tactics again. As a result, they were completely outplayed in the middle of the pitch by the industrious Ramsay and Allen. It was a deserved win for a fearless Wales side but fans were left wondering how the nation’s ‘golden generation’ crashed out at the quarterfinal stage for the second major tournament in a row.
Both Vermaelen and Vertonghen missed the game against Wales through suspension and injury respectively. Losing two senior defenders for a crunch game was a definitely a big blow, but these are situations where great coaches are made. Wilmots decided to place his trust on two youngsters who hadn’t played before in the tournament. And the move failed. Denayer failed to get his head on the ball for the first and third goal and Lukaku lost Ramsay down the Welsh right flank for the second. Lack of options was a problem but with experienced Ciman, who was adjudged the best defender in the MLS in the 2015 seemed like the most logical choice to partner Alderweireld. His selection also left his team horribly exposed to the pace of the Welsh attack and they could never recover from that. His decision to bring in Fellaini for Carrasco to stabilise the midfield in the second half as he offered very little defensively and the team was left chasing the game.
Lack of Responsibility:
It is clear that his tactics failed against a well oiled and dogged Wales team. Instead of taking blame for the loss he chose to dish out excuses that
“I think we had a good strategy for 20, 25 minutes. We played an excellent match, we put in attacking football, we dominated Wales. Then out of nowhere, we dropped back 15 yards. I was saying, ‘Push out! Push out!’ I was waving my arms. I can’t explain why we dropped 15 yards deeper. Maybe we worried about space behind us. I’m not a magician, you can’t simply replace experience. The defence had an average age of 23. I can’t blame the players.”
He may not be a magician, but as a coach it is his job to make the players play the way he thinks is best. He said that he doesn’t want to blame the players but he eventually ended up doing that by not taking complete responsibility for the loss. He failed to rally his exceptionally talented squad in their most important game of the season and his players will feel that he let them all down.
Allowing players to discuss transfers during the campaign:
Most coaches usually tell their players to take care of their transfer activities only before or after entering a major tournament. Marc Wilmots though was more than happy to allow this. He even took special interest in their transfer interests.
“I think his move is absolutely brilliant. Michy, plus Thomas Meunier going to PSG, are being rewarded for their great form and the work they have done out here and over the past season. Both Michy and Thomas came to see me in our camp. They both had a lot on their minds and I decided to give them the afternoon off. I have given them both time to sort out their ‘problems’.
By allowing this, he had these players distracted about post season activities even before their Euros campaign was over. Thinking that he was helping his players out, his decision backfired on the team as Meunier and co struggled against Wales.
Every country has its own version of the ‘Golden Generation’ that dominated the sport. Spain rose to prominence under the guidance of Luis Aragones and Vincente Del Bosque. The change in the system that was brought under Jurgen Klinsmann for the German national team, reached full potential as they won the World Cup under Joachim Low. However, there are some teams whose golden generation failed to deliver anything. England are one major example. Belgian fans will hope that this team belongs to the first category. The current crop of Belgian players are regarded as the greatest set that the country has ever produced. The players are still young and they have time on their hands to turn it around. Hazard, De Bruyne, Lukaku and co are only beginning to realise their full potential and they are already a frightening prospect to play against. But they will end up just like the English if they continue to stick with Marc Wilmots. He said that he won’t make a decision with the all the adrenaline still pumping. But with the entire nation, including his own players calling for a change, it shouldn’t be his choice to make.
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