After matching mighty Brazil for large chunks of their opening match at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008, Belgium have every reason to feel aggrieved after their narrow 1-0 defeat. Indeed, a courageous performance from the Diables Rouges was marred only by the sending-offs of Vincent Kompany and Marouane Fellaini for two yellow cards apiece.
One of the most impressive performances on the field came from Belgium midfielder Tom de Mul, the Sevilla man proving a constant thorn in the side of the Brazilian defence. Fresh from his eye-catching display, the up-and-coming star took the time to speak to FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: How do you feel after losing against Brazil?
Tom de Mul: I’m disappointed, of course. We held our own for the first hour but after Vincent Kompany got sent off it became much harder for us to keep things at 0-0. We deserved to come away from the game with at least a draw but we’ve ended up with nothing. I think Vincent’s sending-off was the turning point as he’s a very important part of our defence.
All the talk in the media before the game was about Ronaldinho and Co, Belgium barely got a mention...
Maybe they underestimated us somewhat. Ok, Brazil may have all the big names in their team but we have a good team too with talented players who play for good clubs. We’re no pushovers, as we proved yesterday.
Your next game is against hosts China who will have a very vocal crowd on their side. How are you approaching this game?
We’ll be without two key players but we have enough quality in the squad so it shouldn’t be a problem. It’ll be a difficult game as the Chinese are more used to the climate here than we are. We're losing a lot of body weight through dehydration during the games out here. It’ll be a tough match, especially with the crowd getting behind them, but I don’t think there are any easy games in the tournament. Our overall aim is still to reach the next round and that would be a real achievement for us.
Looking beyond the Olympics, you have been drawn with Spain and Turkey in your qualifying group for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
It’s going to be difficult. Spain proved just how strong they are at the European Championship and even Turkey made it through to the semi-finals. However, we have a lot of very talented young players coming through so the future is looking good for Belgian football. If we acquit ourselves well here then it will boost our self-confidence and be good for the national team.
After signing for Sevilla last year you have featured in just six games so far. Which personal goals have you set for the coming season?
It was my first season last year. It’s never easy at the start, as you have to get used to so many new things. I still don’t know if I’ll be playing at Sevilla next year. Of course, I want to get more playing time so maybe I’ll need to change clubs. Once the Olympics are over I’ll make a decision.
Is a return to Belgium on the cards?
No, I don’t want to go back to playing in either Belgium or the Netherlands. I want to play in one of the bigger leagues.