- Suspended against France, Thomas Meunier returns for the game against England
- No Red Devil is keener to make history
- “The English will be pumped up for it but I think we’re the better side.”
By Simon Massart with Belgium
If Thomas Meunier were not playing for Belgium at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, he would be cheering them on back home, watching from afar on a giant screen, like the diehard Red Devils fan that he has always been. “I still have memories of Les Diables Rouges from my childhood days,” he told us. “Things have changed now because I’ve got used to being part of the team, but I’m still enjoying every second without taking any of it for granted.”
A late arrival to football on account of his arts studies, Meunier is one of the game’s more multi-faceted characters. While his team-mates choose to unwind in front of a TV or computer screen, the Paris Saint-Germain defender prefers to spend his free time drawing. “I don’t see myself as being that different,” said Meunier, who was selling spare parts for cars up until the age of 19. “I’m a normal person who’s just interested in more things.”
Describing himself as a Belgium fan “just like any other”, Meunier was understandably dejected to miss out on the semi-final meeting with neighbours and old rivals France through suspension. “It was a huge disappointment,” said the 26-year-old, speaking two days after one of the biggest matches in his national team’s history. “You’re caught up in the atmosphere, you see the fans teasing each other, and you just want to join in. I was crossing my fingers for us to get an equaliser but it didn’t work.”
Meunier knows more about the rivalry with the French than anyone, not least the legendary meeting between the two at Mexico 1986, where Belgium lost out to Les Bleus in the play-off for third place. “That’s all they talk about in Belgium. The players are fed up of it. But we’re about to write history in a whole new book,” said the full-back, who commented before the competition that he was determined to see Belgium play seven matches in Russia.
The Red Devils know what they have to do to make footballing history: beat England for the second time at Russia 2018, in another play-off for third place. Held on the same Saint Petersburg pitch where Belgium went out in the semis, it is a meeting that Meunier is looking forward to. “It’s like a final and we really want to beat them again,” he said, determined to erase memories of his side’s loss to the French. “The English will be pumped up for it but I think we’re the better side.”
"Hats off to the @equipedefrance for the qualification. Go to the end now! As for us, we have one game left! Let's write the history of Belgian football with a magnificent 3rd place! Saturday, it will be #REDTOGETHER"