Growing up, Bryan Robson was my idol. This wasn’t just because of the way he played for Man United, but England too. He was a tough, goal-scoring midfielder and that was something I always wanted to be. I probably didn’t play like him that much in the end but, for me, scoring goals from midfield was always the ambition.
From an England point of view, I loved to watch Paul Gascoigne. I remember the 1990 World Cup and how good he was in those games, setting up goals against Egypt, Belgium and Cameroon. Gascoigne was sensational. Being English, he was somebody I idolised.
Players like Robson, Gascoigne, and Lionel Messi inspire a team when it matters, which we’ve seen in this World Cup.
At Man United we knew Messi was the main man, but Barcelona had others, like Xavi and Andreas Iniesta who could destroy you. Trying to jog my memory of the Champions League Final in Rome in 2009 and Wembley 2011, when I came on, I remember not having the ball, and it was no fun. It’s not a pleasant experience playing against Messi. Yes, you might know he’s going to go onto his left foot, but just try to stop him. That’s the challenge facing Belgium, much like 28 years ago against Diego Maradona in Mexico.
However, Argentina are relying too much on Messi in Brazil. If Belgium can stop Messi, they have three or four in-form match winners, and players like Romelu Lukaku or Divock Origi have come off the bench to score – of six Belgium goals, four have come from subs.
Against the USA, Belgium deserved to win in 90 minutes and had the chances to do it. Just because the World Cup is in South America, some people think Argentina will go all the way, but I’m convinced Belgium can beat them.
Suarez will be making a mistake if he signs for Barca
If Luis Suarez does sign for Barcelona from Liverpool, will Lionel Messi ‘accept’ him? Suarez is a centre forward and he won’t want to play out wide. I can’t see Suarez and Messi linking well together. It seems to me, if Messi likes you, you’ll play. If he doesn’t, you’re wasting your time. And, to be honest, I think Suarez is making a bit of a mistake going to Barcelona – he’d be better suited to Real Madrid.
Deschamps sacrificed Nasri for the good of the team
I said before the Germany v Algeria game how slow Germany were at the back, and Algeria were really threatening against them. Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng were exposed. So, I have a feeling France will beat the Germans.
When the France manager Didier Deschamps left out Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri (above) I thought: what’s he doing? But he left Nasri out for the good of the team and he’s done something special because France were in disarray in 2010. Descahmps has sacrificed one of his better players and they’ve been rewarded for it.
In midfield, PSG’s Blaise Matuidi has been a revelation for France. He covers the pitch, gets stuck in, and creates openings for others. Beside him, Paul Pogba has really impressed me. He’s still got room for improvement, but with a World Cup quarter-final, at least, behind him, he can reach his potential. [BET: France to win at 9/5]
Netherlands v Costa Rica
I still don’t believe Holland are a great team. They have a couple of great individuals with the pace of Arjen Robben and quality of Robin van Persie (with Wesley Sneijder, on his day). However, Costa Rica stumbled through against Greece, and Holland will be too strong for them. [BET: Holland to win at 1/2]
Brazil v Colombia
My son’s been raving about James Rodriguez for ages. With five goals and two assists in his four games he’s really been one of the stars and, if he scores again, he could get player of the tournament. Still, It’s Brazil to win, but they need to calm themselves down for the national anthem and conserve this energy for the first-half. [BET: Brazil to win at 17/20]
- Graham Hunter exclusive: Why Germany are too busy with the future to be haunted by ghosts of the past
- Brit-stop: Why it’s best to steer clear of the homegrown talent at the British Grand Prix
- A nation divided: Find out which UK cities are backing France or Germany in Friday’s World Cup quarter final
- BRAZIL NUTS! Our 13 favourite moments from the World Cup 2014 so far