Man City’s Vincent Kompany finally gets to grace globe’s biggest stage
It has taken a decade but finally the 28-year-old Kompany, one of Belgium's greatest ever defenders, is going to get his chance to strut his stuff at a major international tournament.
“I could not imagine that a player of Vincent's calibre would not experience a World Cup at least one time in his career,” said Belgium coach Marc Wilmots.
“I told the players at the beginning of the qualification phase: we had to qualify, at least for Vincent.”
Manchester City centre-back Kompany, who captains his club as well as his country, has been an international for a decade but Belgium's major tournament hiatus has lasted since qualifying for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
That in itself is a difficult statistic to comprehend given the way they breezed through their qualification group, remaining unbeaten and finishing nine points clear of second-placed Croatia.
But led by the 1.91-metre tall, 85kg Kompany, Belgium have not only turned 12 years of disappointment on its head, they've also established themselves as one of the outsiders for overall victory in Brazil.
And at the forefront of their hopes stands a leader of men.
“When Vincent speaks, we keep quiet and listen,” said talented playmaker Eden Hazard recently.
That the focus of Belgium's attacking brilliance should so willingly admit to taking a back-seat when around Kompany demonstrates exactly in how high a regard he is held.
Perhaps one reason for that is Kompany's sense of the collective and his willingness to stand up for one and all among his team-mates.
“He's difficult to negotiate with but what struck me the most is his sense of the team ethic,” said Philippe Collin, president of the Belgian Federation's technical commission.
“When he negotiated the (playing) bonuses, he insisted that they be the same for the starters and the substitutes, but also for those sitting in the stands.
“He had nothing to gain from that given he's normally always on the pitch but that was his way of soldering the group together.”
It is that sort of leadership for all that has ensured that Kompany is so well respected by his team-mates.
It is no surprise either that Kompany forms part of the Belgian players' committee alongside other established squad members Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen, Daniel Van Buyten and Axel Witsel.
But to reduce Kompany's contribution merely to his impact on team spirit is to ignore the great qualities he exudes as a player.
An elegant, intelligent ball-playing centre-half, Kompany is also a great organiser.
Added to that he is humble and pragmatic, insisting that those getting excited about Belgium's new breed of young stars such as Adnan Januzaj, Romelu Lukaku and Hazard don't start getting carried away by their own press.
“We have a young squad, it's their first major tournament. I think it's a still a bit too early to dream of the summit,” said Kompany. “For overall victory it's better waiting until 2016 and the Euros in France.”
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Published: June 16, 2014 04:00 AM