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Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 09:20 GMT 10:20 UK

Sonck vows to keep quiet

By John Chapman
in Brussels

Genk and Belgium striker Wesley Sonck says he no longer wants to talk to the press after his comments before the Japan game were turned into an attack on his national team coach.

In an interview with the Flemish radio station VRT, Sonck observed that Belgium was the only team at the World Cup playing without out-and-out strikers.

The papers say...

  • This team has guts
    - Derniere Heure
  • A good start
    - La Libre Belgique
  • Heaven to hell
    - Het Nieuwsblad
  • Terrible blunders
    - Het Standaard
  • This was expanded into a full-scale "Sonck criticises [Robert] Waseige's tactics" story in the Flemish press.

    Sonck claims his remarks were taken out of context and that the press were guilty of "mischief-making".

    Before Sonck's interview, Waseige had singled out the Genk striker for criticism, saying that he was "not at the peak of his condition".

    The double player of the year in Belgium, expected to be first-choice striker following the withdrawal of Emile Mpenza, saw the starting forward berths go to veteran midfielders Marc Wilmots and Gert Verheyen against Japan.

    However, Sonck did get on, and gave a lively performance, in the final 20 minutes.

    Waseige says he "does not understand the criticism in the press" following Belgium's draw with Japan.

    The coach was told that the BBC and French TV (TF1) have been reasonably positive about Belgium's performance and that his country's press has a "masochistic streak".

    In fact the press reaction following Tuesday's game was fairly predictable - the Francophone media were not unhappy, whereas the Flemish press were critical of team and coach.

    The Derniere Heure headline said "This team has guts!". La Libre Belgique called the result "a good start", while Le Soir went for "Nothing lost - everything to play for."

    Over in the north of the country, it was a very different story. Het Nieuwsblad said the Devils had gone from "heaven to hell via purgatory".

    Het Standaard talked of "terrible blunders" and Het Laast Nieuws called it "a sin".

    The Flemish press also criticised Waseige's tactics, saying that he was too afraid of the opposition.

    Perhaps revealingly, Het Nieuwsblad gave the lowest marks possible to two players, Daniel van Buyten and Johan Walem.

    They were the only two Francophone players in the starting line-up, apart from untouchable skipper Wilmots, who happens to be fluent in the country's three official languages - French, Dutch and German.

    The differences in reaction were sufficient to provoke a debate in the evening World Cup program on RTBF (the Francophone channel).

    Reaction ranged from "it's typically Belgian" to "the Flemish press got it right".


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