Bullish Courtois to star in final show of Belgium’s golden generation

“I don’t need anyone to tell me I’m the best,” Belgium’s 2-meter-tall goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said recently. “I play with confidence and I know I am.” Courtois often points out his excellence because he takes it for granted, like the sunrise every day. However, he has arguably won Real Madrid’s Champions League title this year.He is also the best hope of Belgium’s fading greatest generation as they begin their campaign world cup against Canada on Wednesday.

“Tibo” started cultivating this excellence on the volleyball court in the back garden of his home in a small town in eastern Belgium.His parents (who will be watching the game in Qatar) are high-level volleyball player, his sister became a Belgian international. Courtois is also available, but he was scouted by local football club Genk, initially as a left-back. He eventually became goalkeeper, making his first-team debut as the club’s sixth-choice keeper at the age of 16 as everyone else disappeared. “His face reminds me of my son – he’s 11 months old,” joked a Brazilian teammate. But the child is calm. Two years later, Courtois played alongside young midfielder Kevin De Bruyne as Genk won the Belgian league title in 2011.

He was immediately signed by Chelsea and loaned to Atletico Madrid, where he excelled but rarely showed affection. In 2011, he represented Belgium for the first time.he found himself one of them eight young peers They each made at least 90 appearances, finished third at the last World Cup and established a level of understanding Rare even on the club side.

They are all in the Red Devils squad for the Hilton Salva Beach Resort in Doha: Courtois, De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Romelu Lukaku, Axel Witsel and Dries Mertens. It was the band’s last show: Hazard injured the old man’s ankle, Lukaku was absent with an injury and Vertonghen was 35. Only Courtois and De Bruyne (not always friends) are still at their peak. However, a great goalkeeper can make a lot more difference than football conventional wisdom assumes.

One way to judge a football player is to evaluate him from all sides. When you do that to Courtois, he has it all: perfect goalkeeper size, perfect technique (look at his master save against Neymar at the last World Cup), and perfect, obviously No stressful temperament.

Courtois makes a save for his club Real Madrid against Paris Saint-Germain during the UEFA Champions League © Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images

“For someone 2 meters tall, I’m pretty fast,” he said. Few giants can land as quickly as he does, which may have been his volleyball upbringing. His mind is equally quick: at 30, with more than a decade of experience in top-level football, he foresees the passing patterns of his opponents and gets there first. Facing the striker one-on-one, Courtois was out of bounds in a split second, closing every angle with geometric precision. He often makes saves with his feet – a fruit of stopping the ball while holding heavy weights in both hands. He said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti had to ask him to concede goals in training games to give confidence to the forwards.

Courtois has improved his passing over the years, but his passing has gotten better too: he’ll often make saves and then go around several opponents at once with premeditated throws.

His peak so far came in the Champions League final against Liverpool in May. Inspired by Britain’s Four Four Two magazine, which somehow didn’t list him among football’s top 10 goalkeepers, he made nine saves in the final, including several stunts, he said. Madrid scored the winning goal in almost their only chance.

The Spaniard wouldn’t even have made it to the final without Courtois’ eight saves away to PSG in the round of 16. In the moment of victory, he got “TC1” and the Champions League trophy tattooed on his arm, as he has been fond of taunting Atletico fans lately. He seems to use conflict as motivation.

Courtois celebrates with trophy after Champions League win
Thibaut Courtois made several excellent saves for Real Madrid as they beat Liverpool in the Champions League final © Dylan Martinez/Reuters

He was voted the best goalkeeper in the world last month, but in Vote for the Golden Globes For the best players in the world. “Your team wins because of your saves and you only finish seventh,” he complained. “I don’t think it’s possible for a goalkeeper to win the Ballon d’Or. I don’t know if you can do more as a goalkeeper than I did last year.”

Football underestimates the value of goalkeepers. The German economist Bernd Flick once calculated that their average income is lower than that of outfield players, and their transfer fees are also lower. Real Madrid bought Courtois for 35 million euros in 2018 but then paid another 100 million for Hazard, who has rarely fit in there and is likely not in Qatar either. Crumbling Belgium need Courtois to save them, just as he saved Madrid.

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