Gentlemen, tell us: what exactly are you going to do for Gazet van Antwerpen during the World Cup?
Peters: “Twice a week we dive into the studio. We will then record a video each time, which will also appear as a podcast. What will Patrick and I discuss in it? The peripheral issues that we noticed during the World Cup football. It always crackles in my head during such a tournament. The best anecdotes then shoot through my tube. Then I make Akram Afif of Qatar (an ex-Eupen player, ed.) a jump to Jules, the left back of the miniemen of Dessel Sport. Or something like that (laughs). Pat, you have that too, don’t you?”
Goats: “Sure! In that opening match between Qatar and Ecuador (the day after tomorrow, ed.) I spontaneously think of Yasser Hussain, a Qatari former teammate at Antwerp. I still have regular contact with him. And I automatically have to think back to an internship with Antwerp in Qatar. That was almost 20 years ago now. Hussain’s broker had arranged that internship. Hussain had won the ‘Cup of the Prince’ with his Qatari club the year before and all players who were there received a car as a gift. They have come to hand over Hussain’s to our hotel. That was the biggest Nissan I’ve ever seen. A sleigh with shuttered windows, not normal.”
Peters: “Wasn’t another teammate of yours almost thrown in jail during that internship?”
Goats: “Should I tell you? (laughsOh well, I won’t name him. During a day off, a teammate took off his training pants in a shopping center in Doha. A joke, but in those countries there were still heavy prison sentences. For the same money he was still in jail there.”
Peters: “That kind of stories and anecdotes. We will be canning them twice a week and firing them at the readers and surfers of Gazet van Antwerpen.”
Do you also know what David Beckham, Xavi, Ronald de Boer and Samuel Eto’o have in common?
Goats: “Didn’t they all promote the World Cup in Qatar? They also asked me, but we couldn’t work it out financially (laughs).”
Peters: “I know where you want to go with that question, but we are not going to answer the ethical question. You can talk about that for days and you have other channels for that. I think the ex-footballers you just listed didn’t give it much thought when they were asked.”
Trossard or Hazard? And why couldn’t they play together? I also think that Kevin De Bruyne should be able to determine the line-up together with the national coach.
What is your first World Cup memory, Patrick?
Goats: “In 1974, as an 8-year-old boy, I saw the final between the Netherlands and West Germany on a portable screen. That was next to the field of De Witte Molen in Kasterlee. My father was a referee and he had to whistle a match there. I went with him and watched TV all afternoon. I will never forget that penalty from Neeskens, hard straight ahead. That match also gave me a lot of sympathy for the Orange and Ajax. I am half Dutch.”
Peters: “I also have some Dutch roots and therefore also like to watch Orange. The Dutch mentality is close to the Antwerp mentality, which is why I love living in this city. But when the Red Devils play against the Orange, I always choose the side of the Belgians. Of course.”
Goats: “Me too. As a young guy, I went with some friends to the World Cup in Italy (in 1990, ed.) driven. We saw Belgium – Uruguay live in Verona. I was already slightly intoxicated when we arrived at the stadium. To make matters worse, we ran into Henk Houwaart and René Desaeyere there. Desaeyere had brought me to Kortrijk just before that World Cup. I can still hear him say: Well, that’s how my new striker looks in his spare time…(laughs).”
Peters: “I have never experienced a World Cup on site. I also prefer to watch those matches alone or in a very limited circle. It drives me crazy when I have to watch a Red Devils match next to people who normally never watch football and say strange things during the match. Horrible.”
What do you expect from the Red Devils at this World Cup?
Peters: “We will become world champions (winks).”
Goats: “I don’t see us becoming world champions, though. The pressure is less, the expectations are lower. I think a lot will depend on the availability of Romelu Lukaku.”
Peters: “World champion or not: a lot of previews will be wrong in retrospect. That’s football. It’s just impossible to predict. Eleven good footballers play against eleven other good footballers. A ball inside or outside the post, a quick red card… Those can be game changers. Beware: there are exceptions. Take a game against Panama, like at the previous World Cup. Then you know in advance that you will win. I just hope that the Red Devils will be more tactically flexible than at the previous tournaments.”
Goats: And they play with pride. Also at that level you can win matches on mentality. Wetting the jersey for the nation. I see this more in some countries than in others.”
Peters: “Take Uruguay, a country with three million inhabitants. They have a great team at every tournament. Good football players, but they are also ‘killers’. Legal killers. They go through a fire for each other.”
One of the key questions for this tournament: Trossard or Hazard?
Peters: “And why couldn’t they play together? Hazard, Trossard and Lukaku in the front, that can spark. Trossard could be the revelation of the tournament for us. I also expect something from Onana. That boy has already completed a penalty course. Often rejected or found inadequate. He’s just standing there now.”
Goats: “Onana is our new Fellaini. Both physically very strong, but not bad feet either. I think there are more question marks in the back. Theate and Faes will probably be the stand-ins for Vertonghen and Dendoncker. Debast will not get many playing minutes. But Martinez can always surprise me.”
Peters: “I think that Kevin De Bruyne should be able to determine the line-up together with the national coach. He is by far our very best player and holds the key. And at Manchester City he receives tactical guidelines from Pep Guardiola, the best coach in the world.”
Goats: “Would Roberto agree to that?”
Peters: “Didn’t Vincent Kompany have a similar role in 2018? I would give it a chance: De Bruyne as a kind of player/assistant.”
When did you finish the tournament?
Goats: “If I am surprised. I don’t want a predictable tournament.”
Peters. “I wholeheartedly agree with that. And I hope I survive the rest days. From the knockout stage there are days when no matches are played. Those are the darkest days of such a tournament. Then don’t call me.”