De Bruyne urges angry Belgium fans to back team vs. France

Kevin De Bruyne urged Belgium‘s angry supporters to back the team after the midfielder told his teammates to leave the pitch at the end of Wednesday’s 0-0 Group E stalemate against Ukraine following incessant booing by the country’s travelling fans.

The goalless draw in Stuttgart was enough to secure qualification for the round of 16 for Belgium — the Red Devils will face France in Dusseldorf on Sunday — and saw Ukraine become the first team to be eliminated from a European Championships with four points.

But with Belgium choosing to settle for a draw in the closing stages rather than chase a win that would have secured top spot and a less difficult round of 16 tie, the fans reacted angrily at the end by booing the players.

De Bruyne approached the section housing the Belgium fans, but he turned back and instructed his teammates to leave the pitch as the boos grew louder when his name was announced as UEFA’s Player of the Match.

“We tried to win the match,” De Bruyne said in a postmatch news conference. “We had goal-scoring opportunities, but we didn’t take any risks with the corner because we knew we might concede a goal.

“If that happens, you’re out of the Euros. It’s a shame we didn’t manage to score before — we had opportunities — and after that we just need the fans to stay with us.

“We need these fans. We’ll need them against France. That’s all I have to say.”

When asked why he urged his teammates to leave the pitch and not approach the Belgium fans at the end, De Bruyne gave a guarded response by reiterating the call for backing from the supporters.

“We just need them,” he said. “I don’t know what else to say. We just need the fans. We’ll need them against France. We needed them in the last three games. That’s it.”

Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco echoed De Bruyne’s comments by saying that his players were trying to win the game in the closing stages.

“Well of course we are a bit surprised [by the boos],” he said. “We wanted to qualify, and we have qualified.

“We lost the first game and played fantastically against Romania and the fans were really happy then. Today was a really tough game, but the message was clear: We want to play to win.

“The players tried everything. We could have scored more at the beginning, but if the fans are whistling, we have to accept it.”

De Bruyne, meanwhile, said he spoke to referee Anthony Taylor after being distracted by a laser being shone in his face during the first half of the game.

“I saw a laser in my eye,” he said. “That’s it. I don’t know how many times it was, but I just pointed it out to the ref and that’s it.”

Belgium coach Tedesco hit out at the team’s pre-match preparation by saying that the side’s journey to the stadium was “unbelievable.”

“I have to say, the circumstances as we arrived here, how we arrived here at the stadium, I’ve never seen before,” Tedesco said. “Never. It took one hour with a police escort with no blue light.

“The road was clear. Every red traffic light was clear, but we drove at 25 mph. It’s unbelievable. Unbelievable.

“I had time to do a speech of two minutes when we got to the stadium. It was an important game, a tough one, but we had a bad preparation with this.

“So I’m proud of my team. We did well. Everything is happening here. Everything. And everything is allowed.

“We can have a delay of one hour and they don’t postpone the match by 15 minutes. They can laser point us or whatever.

“We were not very lucky in the first game. Many things, but we have still qualified. This is why I’m so proud of the players.”