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40,000 party in Brussels as Red Devils return home
An estimated 40,000 fans lined the streets of Brussels and filled the Grand-Place on Sunday to cheer the Red Devils on their return from the World Cup in Russia.
The big homecoming party celebrated Belgium's best-ever World Cup performance, with the team beating England 2-0 in Saturday's play-off to finish third. The Red Devils last reached the semi-finals at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Police closed off the Grand-Place two hours before the players' arrival as it had already reached its maximum capacity of 8,000.
Others gathered at big screens at the Bourse and Mont des Arts, and along the route of an open-top bus carrying the players from the Royal Palace in Laeken, where they had posed for an official photo with King Philippe and Queen Mathilde.
The team appeared one by one on the balcony of Brussels City Hall. "Every minute we spent on the pitch was for you," Vicent Kompany told the crowds gathered on the Grand-Place.
"It was very special," coach Roberto Martinez told Sporza in an interview in English following the festivities. "Today there was the genuine emotion of enjoying each other’s company, the togetherness, the satisfaction, the pride in these players. It was something I never experienced before."
Belgium's Thibaut Courtois was voted the tournament's best goalkeeper by Fifa. He is the first Red Devil to win the Golden Glove award in 24 years.
“I am so proud of this award,” Courtois told Sporza. “It is a fantastic achievement. We had such a great World Cup. I would have liked to play in the final, but it’s really great to win this individual prize.”
Courtois, who plays for Chelsea, said he would be taking a good look at his contract, currently £200,000 (€226,000) a week. “I’m going to talk to my manager to see what the possibilities are,” he said. “I’m keeping all my options open.”
France beat Croatia 4-2 in Sunday's final to become the 2018 World Cup champions.
Photo: Yves Herman/Belga