Belgium started the tournament on a winning note after fighting to a hard fought 1 – 0 win over Canada in their opening Group F game. It was a result that more than embellished the actual showing of the Red Devils.
The Manchester City star, who was an integral part of the team that almost went all the way to the 2018 final but ended up with a consolation third place finish, accepted his team’s shortcomings in the game while claiming that they are not favourites for the title.
“I think our chance was 2018,” he said in an interview with The Guardian before the tournament. “We have a good team, but it is ageing. We lost some key players.
“We have some good new players coming, but they are not at the level other players were in 2018. I see us more as outsiders.”
It is brutal honesty from the former Wolfsburg midfielder, who watched his team get outplayed by Canada, a team who had not been to the World Cup in over three decades.
A penalty save by 2018 World Cup golden glove winner Thibaut Courtois from Alphonso Davies and a Michy Batshuayi goal helped them to the victory. De Bruyne, however, knows they may not be as lucky against Morocco and Croatia.
De Bruyne, who received the man of the match award against Canada but brushed it aside, said of their upcoming games: “We can show more bravery, be better on the ball, and overall improve our performance, and individually it’s the same.
“I was on the level that the team was playing at, I was below average, I expect myself to be way better than that. That’s what I’m going to try and do in the next game.”
Meanwhile, De Bruyne will be going back to Manchester City whenever his tournament ends to catch up with Pep Guardiola, who has recently extended his contract at the club until 2025.
Under the Spaniard, the Belgian maestro has become one of the world’s best and he is relishing the chance to play with him for longer.
“[The Guardiola deal] makes my life a lot easier,” he stated. “The way he leads the team is very clear and I feel very comfortable with him. Both our contracts run to 2025, so that makes it easier.
“I could not be happier.”