Wilmots, back as coach, looking for happier times

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BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) - A dozen years ago, Marc Wilmots left the World Cup with a grudge, convinced a bad refereeing decision had cost him a goal and Belgium a huge upset win over Brazil.

Now Wilmots is in Brazil as coach, directing one of the most talented of the 32 teams.

Just don’t say he’s here for revenge. If there is one person who can tell the difference between then and now, between greatness and luck, it’s Wilmots.

Although he does have those flashback moments. “I had my deja-vu,” Wilmots smiled when asked for his thoughts on the contentious penalty that helped Brazil to a 3-1 victory over Croatia in the 2014 tournament opener.

For him, it is the essence of what makes a World Cup successful for any team - an incident to make the difference between success and failure.

In Japan 2002, Wilmots rose over Brazil defender Roque Junior in a second-round game to head home a cross for a seemingly perfect goal. It was disallowed. It would have been 1-0. Instead Belgium then went out 2-0 and Brazil went on to lift the World Cup.

“It doesn’t depend on much in a World Cup,” Wilmots said. “It depends on a small detail, a lack of something.”

It has armed him well for what might come over the next four weeks, starting with Tuesday’s opening Group H game against underdog Algeria.

Prepare as you may - altitude training, scientific food preparations, a legion of doctors - the game throws up the weirdest incidents that can make or break a whole campaign.

In Wilmots’ first World Cup, Belgium played excellent football at Italy 1990. In the second round, it twice hit the woodwork before England’s David Platt volleyed home a ball in the last moments of extra time just before a penalty shootout was to come.

“It was the best Belgian team I ever saw, and we went down in the 120th minute,” Wilmots said.

The 1986 team which reached the semifinals after three mediocre opening-round games got a different treatment.

“If the analysis was made after the opening round, everybody would have gone home in shame,” Wilmots said. Instead, they are considered the greatest ever.

It leaves him perfectly sanguine about his fate as coach, knowing he has prepared them as well as he could.

“I will take the responsibility,” he said.

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