RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Just working out on the grass of Maracana was sheer happiness for Vincent Kompany on Saturday, especially after a groin strain had kept the Belgian captain out for three days. Now, he says he's fit to fulfill his childhood dream of playing a World Cup match in one of the world's most famous stadiums.
Making things even better is the fact that a win against Russia on Sunday would put the World Cup into the knockout phase after just two games.
Kompany said that the come-from-behind 2-1 win over Algeria on Tuesday ''should give us confidence for the rest of the tournament'' and give Belgium the courage to dominate play and look for victory against Russia.
He will have to keep a cool head though and keep the emotion of playing at Maracana from overwhelming him.
Any victory for Belgium will do, said Kompany. Freeflowing play can come later.
''At this point we are not going to prove ourselves with the way we play,'' Kompany said. ''The proof will be in the results. ... Traditionally, for many nations, they have to get out of their group first and only then, they make the difference. There is a time for everything.''
But, there is only one time to play your first World Cup match in Rio at the temple of Brazilian football.
''I've done just about all big stadiums in Europe and for me, the two most mythical stadiums in the world are Wembley and Maracana.''
In March, Kompany won the English League Cup as Manchester City captain at London's Wembley. Now comes Rio and Maracana.
''It really means something and it is a kid's dream,'' Kompany said. ''Only to walk on the grass is an immense joy.''
Russia only managed a draw in its opening game against South Korea, putting the onus on coach Fabio Capello to get the victory. However, Belgium coach Marc Wilmots insists he will always go for a win to make sure Belgium qualifies at the first opportunity.
''The only question mark I have in my head is the one behind the name Vincent Kompany,'' he said.
Even if his groin acts up again, said Kompany, ''there are other good players who will be able to replace me.''