BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans reckons he still has plenty left in the tank as he looks forward to Friday's European Championship quarter-final against Italy despite a long season.
The 24-year-old made 49 starts for Leicester City in all competitions last season - including scoring the winner in May’s FA Cup final - and has played in all 14 of Belgium’s internationals since September.
"I still have a lot in store. I try to rest as much as possible and get my body ready for the games," he told a news conference on Wednesday.
Tielemans feels he has had an average tournament to date, even though he is seen as key in the Belgian team and might be even more so if captain Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, who were both injured in the last 16 clash against Portugal, are unable to play in Munich on Friday.
"I always try to be self-critical, so I have mixed feelings about my tournament. Defensively it’s been OK, but against Portugal we could have done better by keeping the ball for longer.”
Belgium were under considerable pressure in the second half in Seville but still went through after a wonder strike from Thorgan Hazard.
“I suppose advancing in the tournament on the back of one shot shows that we are efficient. We can create more, but it is not always necessary," Tielemans added.
He expects a midfield battle against Italy, who like Belgium won their opening three group games but were less convincing in their first knockout round match.
"I expect that Italy might play football in a different way. Mentally it is different because you face immediate elimination in the knockout phase. You may then play more cautiously, but I don't think their playing style will change.
"It will be a good battle in midfield. Hopefully the best will win."
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)