Coach Wilmots wants time to think as Belgians call for his head
By Francesco Guarascio and Alastair Macdonald
LILLE, France (Reuters) - Belgium coach Marc Wilmots asked for time to take a holiday and think about his future after watching his talent-packed team crash out of Euro 2016 on Friday, outplayed 3-1 by a dogged Welsh outfit.
"I'll take a bit of a holiday," he said when asked about his future as coach. "I won't make a decision when the adrenaline's pumping. I need some time to think."
But reaction both in the dressing room and on the back pages of a Belgian press which had built up hopes of a "golden generation" capturing the country's first major trophy in France left it unclear how much time he will get for reflection.
"It's a disgrace that all this talent has been left to fend for itself," thundered Het Laatste Nieuws after defeat in Lille saw Belgium bow out at the same quarter-final stage as they were ejected from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"After this shameful exit, Wilmots cannot go on as coach."
Players too, notably Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, have appeared less than convinced by the coach's abilities. Not for the first time this tournament, Courtois suggested that tactical failings had undone a team that boasts the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Dries Mertens.
Wilmots himself, who had a notable career as a combative midfielder for Schalke and Belgium in the late 1990s, refused to be flustered in post-match interviews, blaming injuries and suspensions that deprived him of the experienced heart of his defence and left him reliant on very young and untried reserves.
"The strategy was good...I didn't stop shouting at my players to move forward," he said of Belgium's strange surrender after they took the lead in a coruscating first 20 minutes.
"We have a problem of communication. I am not a magician."
That communication between players and a coach whose success on the bench was modest at club level has shown signs of strain.
Responding to his goalkeeper's bitter disappointment and Courtois' criticism of tactics in the tournament, Wilmots said:
"I can understand Thibaut's disappointment. He dreamed of becoming European champion and he no longer has that dream."
(Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Angus MacSwan)