BRASILIA, Brazil — Belgium coach Marc Wilmots is old enough to remember Diego Maradona dumbfounding four defenders and a goalie to stop the nation’s incredible run at the 1986 World Cup in the semifinals. What Maradona was to Argentina then, Lionel Messi is now.
Wilmots called Maradona “the player that struck us down and gave us bad memories. Fortunately, that is well in the past now.”
Messi wants to bring those memories back when Belgium plays Argentina in the quarterfinals today. And Belgium knows he’s capable of scoring a similar goal to the one that ousted Belgium in 1986, when Maradona took on four players, ran past them and rifled the ball past helpless goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff.
“You should only think of one thing: make the final,” Wilmots said. “That Belgium didn’t use to have that frame of mind is not my problem,” he said.
Belgium’s strong defense has been the key to its World Cup run so far, with Vincent Kompany, Daniel Van Buyten and Jan Vertonghen all among the team’s standout players.
Together, they will try to stop Messi.
“If he gets past one player, he will have to get past a second player, because another will help out,” Van Buyten said. “We will have to show our big heart.”
Argentina will try to find Messi in the attacking areas, said coach Alejandro Sabella. “I believe that this is work that is done by the entire team,” the coach said. “Obviously he (Messi) is the best player in the world but there is teamwork.”
Costa Rica vs. Dutch
SALVADOR, Brazil — Costa Rica issued a plea to the referee on Friday to keep an eye on Arjen Robben’s diving.
The Netherlands forward earned an injury-time penalty in the second round of the World Cup, giving his team a 2-1 win over Mexico. Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto is worried about more of the same when his team faces the Dutch in the quarterfinals today.
“FIFA and referees, please watch out. That could be a crucial factor in the match,” Pinto said. “This is very important, Robben’s diving. ... That makes us worry a lot.”