BELO HORIZONTE Brazil (Reuters) - Belgium coach Marc Wilmots reminded expectant fans that patience is a virtue after being inundated with text messages from home demanding more urgency when his side struggled to get to grips with Algeria on Tuesday.
Wilmots praised his highly-fancied team’s organization after a slow World Cup start as they hit back from a goal down to break the Africans’ resistance and win their Group H opener 2-1.
“They had one opportunity and it was a penalty. So our organization was perfect,” Wilmots told reporters after Belgium recovered from a sluggish first half and a penalty to score twice in the last 20 minutes.
He smarted at suggestions from reporters that Belgium began badly, saying the game plan was to wear down Algeria slowly.
”I think half of Belgium sent me text messages, saying ‘shout, tell them to move’. If you have good organization, there will be opportunities, you have to be patient.
“Did you expect us to win 4-0, 5-0? Well Algeria’s 22 in the world ranking, you know ... Do you realize where we are now? It’s a World Cup. There are no weak teams. In order to win, you have to reach the limits of pain, not regret anything.”
Wilmots said he knew Algeria would tire in the latter stages and was not surprised his team scored on 70 and 80 minutes.
“In the first half, I chose a lineup for a lot of ball possession. Perhaps we were a bit slow. There were some small errors. But we knew we had to be patient, to wait,” he said.
The coach said he always intended to bring on match-turner Marouane Fellaini, whose deft header brought Belgium level.
“At halftime the players were a bit down, but I said ‘don’t worry, we will score and we will change totally the match’,” he said. “We were able to do that and I think we deserved that victory. My substitutes are very strong. We got a new momentum. We saw that the Algeria team were getting more and more tired.”
With Russia and South Korea to come, Wilmots, who played in Belgium’s last World Cup campaign in 2002, said he was taking nothing for granted. “We have three points, now we will rehydrate, go home and relax. With three points we are nowhere.”
Wilmots rejected claims from Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic the referee missed a foul from Kevin De Bruyne on Sofiane Feghouli prior to Belgium’s second goal.
“I saw De Bruyne’s tackle on the ball, it was correct. I didn’t see any foul. I saw it twice on TV and the execution was perfect,” he said.
Wilmots was defensive about Romelu Lukaku’s quiet performance for Belgium.
The 21-year-old muscular striker, who had a great season in England’s Premier League and is their main hope for goals since injured Christian Benteke missed out on the World Cup, was substituted in the second half.
“The problem is that he’s young, it’s very difficult. It was his first World Cup match,” he said.
“But I will need Lukaku some more, that’s for sure.”
Man-of-the-match De Bruyne, who supplied the cross for Fellaini’s goal and started the move for the second, said Algeria were a tough nut to crack.
“The first half was very difficult. They played well, very organized, I knew they would put up a block,” he said.
“In the second, I had more space. I could be dangerous with my crosses.”
Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Justin Palmer