Also Club Brugge kicks off again on Wednesday, and there is immediately pressure on the kettle. It must be hit twice before New Year’s: pushing through in the cup and immediately grabbing a league victory are a must. Carl Hoefkens explains why his team has to make up 13 points against Genk. “By the way, that is possible, but then full commitment is required,” says Hoefkens.
Coach, a little recap of the past five weeks, please. How did you fill that World Cup break?
“Those first weeks were by no means self-evident: there were barely eight guys on training who are potential basic players. At the same time, it was an excellent opportunity for our young guests. We played some practice matches in which they also got minutes. But to train a certain system or certain game situations, that was a different story. In the end, we barely had five training sessions to train tactically with the entire team, including all World Cup participants. It was important that everyone was there with their full concentration at that moment. “
That will be necessary: missteps are out of the question during this second part of the competition, given the street length behind Club.
“We had three ambitions before the winter break. We were able to tick off European wintering and pushing through in the cup. The third attempt was to keep a view of the title. But in the competition we often did too little. In terms of game, but also the result was not always what we had hoped for. We must now do everything we can to rectify that. Last year we also made up twelve points at Union. But then everyone has to show full commitment.”
Wasn’t the context for the World Cup break different? Did strong holders unknowingly pull a foot back to avoid injuries? Wasn’t it a little less mentally?
“Honestly: I have seen everyone very involved with Club Brugge until the last minute before the World Cup. We knew in advance that this was going to be an exceptional season. Sometimes we tried to give our players a day off, but we couldn’t. Then we were working sixteen days in a row. And we often played matches that had to be won. At Atlético you can’t say: we’re going to play with the handbrake on this, right? In terms of fatigue, European football has had an impact. And with results in the Champions League, opponents came onto the field even more motivated.”
Was the break a period of reflection for you?
“We didn’t finish well. We’ve seen every match, and we know better than ever what went wrong, but also what went well. We must not forget that we have had a lot of good moments, and often at the highest level.”
The competition was able to train at full strength. Is that frustrating for a coach?
“Not at all, because we are proud that so many Club Brugge players were present on the highest stage. It’s not that they’re just any friend match went to play. An internship abroad was not possible. We were just too few. But that is not a problem.”
How did you get your World Cup visitors back to training? Do you expect Lang to be back to normal now?
“First and foremost, that period of rest after Qatar has been very beneficial to them. You see that. They were here with a lot of motivation. A World Cup like that makes you a better player. Qatar was also quite an experience for Lang. But I told him beforehand: you don’t just have to want to be there, you have to go and also play. I have seen him at training with a lot of drive and enthusiasm. I look forward to what he can bring.”