Wilmots: Belgium, Italy and Portugal are outsiders for Euro 2016
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots believes his team are outsiders to challenge for the Euro 2016 trophy, along with Portugal and Italy.
Wilmots guided his nation to the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where they were eliminated by eventual runners-up Argentina.
Belgium subsequently moved to the top of the FIFA Rankings, but were overtaken by the South American nation in April.
Despite being ranked as the top European side, Wilmots does not see his team as favourites for glory in France.
“We’ve worked well, as it’s 30 years since Belgium last qualified for two straight tournaments on the pitch. There are teams like Spain, Germany and France that have a lot of quality,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“We are amongst the outsiders like Italy and Portugal. If we can avoid injuries we can reach the semi-finals, and once you are there who knows what can happen.”
Belgium face Italy in their first Group E game in Lyon on June 13, with Antonio Conte unable to call upon the injured Marco Verratti, a player Wilmots previously revealed his admiration for.
The Red Devils will be without captain Vincent Kompany due to a suspected groin injury, and the coach is concerned about what the condition of other players from the Premier League will be.
“I didn’t say he [Verratti] was the best player, but I think he is the most functional. I like how he defends and takes part in the play,” added Wilmots.
“It’s a loss for Italy, but we also have issues with injured and tired players. Those who play in England will arrive all beat up.”
Wilmots wants Belgium to avoid a slip-up against Italy in their opener, claiming the European Championship is more difficult than the World Cup.
“Losing the first match could be a big problem,” he said.
“Unexpected things could happen after, but you risk compromising your tournament by losing right away.
“The Euros are more complicated than the World Cup.”