Defour predicts bright Belgian future

It has been a long wait since the 2002 FIFA World Cup for Belgium to reach another major finals, but when Spain visit the Stade Roi Baudouin in Brussels on Wednesday night the home side have high hopes of a victory that would leave them in pole position to reach South Africa in 2010.

Impressive start
Belgium made an impressive start in the FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with home victories over Estonia and Armenia and an away draw against UEFA EURO 2008™ semi-finalists Turkey. Only Spain now lie ahead of them in Group 5, and the European champions' 100 per cent record is under threat from a new generation of Belgian players, the result of a deliberate decision by the country's governing body to concentrate on youth development in recent years.

Swift promotion
The likes of Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Moussa Dembélé, Marouane Fellaini, Axel Witsel and Steven Defour could all be in the Under-21 side but have instead formed the new core of René Vandereycken's senior Red Devils. R. Standard de Liège captain Defour has noticed that, after false starts in previous qualification campaigns, the atmosphere surrounding the national team has improved a lot. "You feel that things are going well, on and off the pitch," the 20-year-old told "The squad has become more mature, the players come from clubs where they play a lot and do well, and now things are going better there are also more fans to support us."

Confident performance
More than 20,000 were in attendance on Saturday to see Armenia beaten 2-0 courtesy of goals from Wesley Sonck and Fellaini, and Defour was delighted with the overall performance. He said: "The players do well at their clubs, and that's important as they come to the national team with confidence. That's very important and that is what you notice on the pitch. We did what we have to do, we won, we dominated and played good football at times, and that gives us confidence for the Spain match."

Less pressure
Defour is even relishing the fact that to many of Wednesday's likely sell-out 46,000 crowd, Belgium will be underdogs. "Against Armenia, everyone expected us to win," he said. "Against Spain, it might be easier for us in terms of pressure. Now everyone thinks it would be fantastic if we win, and that it still would be very good if we can draw. Well, we hope to spring a surprise."