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Monday, 3 June, 2002, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK

Walem calls time on career

By John Chapman

Standard Liege midfielder Johan Walem has announced his intention to retire from international football after the World Cup.

Captain Marc Wilmots will also quit after Belgium's final game in the Far East.

Like Schalke 04's Wilmots, Walem will continue to play club football.

At the start of the new domestic season he will team up with current national coach Robert Waseige, who is set to join Liege.

"I've made a lot of sacrifices to reach the World Cup and I want to go out on a high note," the 30-year-old said.

"This is the peak and afterwards I will devote myself to my club and my family.

Walem has endured a love-hate relationship with the national team and has often been criticised - usually by the Flemish press.

"In 1994 I had my best season at Anderlecht and then I was left out of the squad by Paul Van Himst.

"Four years later I was overlooked because of Enzo Scifo's return to favour. But I'm determined and I have been rewarded now."

Walem also had a last word for his detractors: "It's a type of revenge to be here. People have been criticising me for 12 years in Belgium.

"Either they don't like me or they don't like my style of play. I've often asked myself the question but now I don't care and I don't feel under pressure."

Walem will be the creative heart of Belgium's team in Japan.

The Diables Rouges will look to his strength in taking free kicks and corners.

It was one of these that gave Belgium the lead in the recent friendly in Paris when Glen de Boeck headed home from a Walem free kick.

However, Walem and Belgium should fail, the press will be waiting.

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