What's buzzing:

Belgian defender, 36, key in plans to stop Messi

AP - Sports
Belgian defender, 36, key in plans to stop Messi
.

View gallery

Belgium's Daniel Van Buyten is challenged by United States' Jermaine Jones during the World Cup …

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -- Daniel Van Buyten has been written off as too old and too slow many more times than Lionel Messi has been crowned the best player in the world.

Yet at 36, he stands at the heart of the Belgian defense ready to blunt Argentina's forwards in the World Cup quarterfinals - and after an outstanding four matches so far, the strategy is not as absurd as it sounds.

Amplifying the age factor, Van Buyten says ''I'm almost 37. I am at the World Cup. All goes well.'' That is before meeting Messi.

When most of the attention has been on captain Vincent Kompany, it has been his partner in central defense - ''Big Dan'' - who has been impressive in ways that few expected.

While younger players wilted in the extra-time thriller against the United States on Tuesday, the big, powerful defender stood tall for 120 minutes in the evening heat of Salvador to help ensure the 2-1 victory.

He was just as dependable during the group stage, when he was instrumental in safeguarding three one-goal victories.

What he lost in sheer speed with age, he has made up for in vision and anticipation.

It's a long way removed from the 2010 UEFA Champions League final between Inter Milan and his Bayern Munich.

With a devastating performance, Inter's Argentine Diego Milito had run Van Buyten ragged and scored both goals. Of course, the general thinking went that it was surely Van Buyten's swansong, at 32. Yet on Saturday, there Van Buyten will be listening to the Belgian anthem, with Milito merely a memory for Van Buyten, and the Argentina team.

''There are always tougher parts in a career, and the way to get through that is self-confidence,'' Van Buyten said.

There is more to it, though, than just mental stoicism, as the muscle tone in his face still shows. A few days ago, when other players stepped away from the training pitch, Van Buyten remained and kept stretching his body in all kinds of ways to keep it nimble so he can continue competing with much younger players.

''Somehow hard work always pays off,'' Van Buyten said.

Coach Marc Wilmots was watching Van Buyten's warm down routine and was not at all surprised. The pair were teammates the last time Belgium qualified for the World Cup in 2002.

''I watch everything: how he relaxes, what he eats, what he drinks, he even sleeps with a bottle of water,'' Wilmots said. ''Otherwise you cannot stay eight years at Bayern. And if Bayern watches him play here, they'd better think twice to release him.''

Bayern coach Pep Guardiola has been sending Van Buyten encouragement throughout the World Cup.

His performance in Brazil is especially sweet since this season because he was only considered good enough to get on the Bayern starting lineup for one-third of the Bundesliga games.

As strict as his pre-game preparations are, he does leave himself a little bit of room to celebrate when a celebration is due.

After every World Cup game he has won, he has asked for a glass of red wine.

''But just one glass,'' he said. ''And on top of that, alcohol is not good for the body.''

---

Follow Raf Casert on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/rcasert

View Comments (6)
  • Cech arrival adds substance to Arsenal's style

    Cech arrival adds substance to Arsenal's style

    By Tom Hayward LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal have again been cautious spenders in the transfer market but by recruiting Petr Cech, one of the Premier League's best goalkeepers, they have added some defensive substance to compliment their attacking … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 57 minutes ago
  • Man City hoping Sterling proves a sound investment

    Man City hoping Sterling proves a sound investment

    By Martyn Herman LONDON (Reuters) - Demonised as a caricature of the highly-paid modern-day footballer whose ego dwarfs his talent, Raheem Sterling will have few fans when the Premier League begins next weekend. Unless, of course, you support … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 59 minutes ago
  • Chelsea must be more unpredictable, says Mourinho

    Chelsea must be more unpredictable, says Mourinho

    By Tony Jimenez LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea must add a new dimension to their brand of football if the champions are to mount a strong defence of the Premier League title they won in some comfort last season, said manager Jose Mourinho. The … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 38 minutes ago
  • Liverpool face devilish start to new season

    Liverpool face devilish start to new season

    By Toby Davis LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers could find himself under pressure sooner than expected with a host of new signings to bed in and a devilish run of fixtures to kick off the new Premier League campaign. There were … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 39 minutes ago
  • Premier League club-by-club preview

    Premier League club-by-club preview

    By Steve Tongue LONDON (Reuters) - Club-by-club preview ahead of the start of the Premier League season on Aug. 8: ARSENALGoalkeeper Petr Cech may be the only major signing but manager Arsene Wenger is confident that after retaining the FA Cup and … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 40 minutes ago