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De Bruyne had no fear over starting berth

Football Soccer - Belgium v Italy - EURO 2016 - Group E - Stade de Lyon, Lyon, France - 13/6/16 Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne looks dejected after the match REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/ Livepic
Football Soccer - Belgium v Italy - EURO 2016 - Group E - Stade de Lyon, Lyon, France - 13/6/16Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne looks dejected after the matchREUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/ Livepic

BORDEAUX, France (Reuters) - - Kevin de Bruyne said he never feared being dropped by Belgium, even though coach Marc Wilmots had threatened wholesale changes before Saturday’s 3-0 over Ireland at Euro 2016.

De Bruyne had been among the players criticised after Belgium’s opening 2-0 defeat by Italy in Group E. But the midfield playmaker bounced back to form in Bordeaux against the Irish.

Wilmots has since admitted that he was "bluffing" with his threats. But, whatever role the mind games played, the Belgians are winning again.

"We answered the critics on the field after a lesser performance against Italy," De Bruyne said. "I read some of the speculation, but I never felt that my place in the starting team was under threat. I’ve proven myself enough in the past in the national team. "

“I think we played really well and were patient in our approach."

De Bruyne said a troublesome hamstring, which saw him skip training before the Ireland clash, was improving.

“I ran less against Ireland and feel better," he said.

Belgium complete their Group E campaign against Sweden in Nice on Wednesday.

"From tomorrow our focus is solely on Sweden," De Bruyne said. "They are a good team with Zlatan Ibrahimovic a classy player. They have to win so they will attack us. Hopefully it is an open game which will give us an advantage.”

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Adrian Warner.; mark.gleeson@thomsonreuters.com; +27828257807; Reuters Messaging: Reuters Messaging: mark.gleeson.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)

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