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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
Wily Waseige's change in fortune
Robert Waseige
Waseige has been Belgian coach of the year three times

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It is a testament to Robert Waseige's popularity as the Belgium coach that he bounced back from the disappointments of Euro 2000.

Undoubtedly, Belgium's failure to get past the group stages of the tournament taking place partly on home soil was a crushing blow.

But Waseige seems to have recovered in style, steering the side to the World Cup finals for the sixth successive time.

Certainly he has brought stability to the team and is credited with galvanising them after the volatile reign of George Leekens.

Waseige factfile
Born: 26/08/39
Birthplace: Liege, Belgium
Played for: FC Liege, Racing White, KFC Winterslag
1972: Begins coaching at KFC Winterslag
1976: Moves to Standard Liege
1979: Returns to KFC Winterslag
1981-99: Successful spells at several Belgian clubs as well as a brief spell at Sporting Lisbon
1999: Takes over from George Leekens as Belgium coach

Waseige also holds the historic honour of being the first native French speaker to coach the Belgian national side.

The 62-year-old began his career in football when he started playing for his hometown side FC Liege in 1959.

A year later, he had helped the first division club to finish runners-up in the league.

Between 1963 and 1970, he played for Racing White, who won the second division title in 1965.

He wound his playing career down at third division Winterslag, where he then became coach and led them to the top flight in just three years.

It was the beginning of a long and fruitful career in Belgian football, which included spells at Standard Liege, Lokeren, FC Liege and Charleroi.

Waseige also earned some overseas coaching experience with a brief spell in charge of Sporting Lisbon.

He was soon back in Belgium, returning to Charleroi for a couple of seasons before succeeding Leekens as Belgium coach in 1999.

It was here the Waseige rollercoaster began, starting with a dramatic 5-5 friendly draw against neighbouring rivals Holland.

But the new coach proved a popular choice among Belgian fans, especially after leading the team to significant wins over Italy, Norway and Morocco in the run-up to Euro 2000.

On entering the tournament, Belgium's form was more patchy, notching up one win and two losses.

They became the first host nation team to fall at the first hurdle, but Waseige's position was never under threat, even when he underwent emergency heart bypass surgery the following spring.

He rewarded Belgium's unwavering support by securing the side's qualification for the World Cup finals with victory over the Czech Republic in a two-legged play-off.

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