Rocky Bushiri reveals Belgium dream as Hibs defender backs Red Devils to 'do something special' at World Cup

Rocky Bushiri insists he hasn’t given up hope of being capped by Belgium, with the Hibs defender prepared to bide his time in the hopes of a senior call-up.

The 22-year-old was a highly-regarded member of the Red Devils’ under-21 squad and as an 18-year-old, helped keep an Italy squad containing Moise Kean and Nicolò Zaniolo quiet in a friendly victory in October 2018.

Bushiri has put in some impressive displays for Hibs this season and firmly believes he can be a late bloomer for his country, having yet to receive a senior call-up to Roberto Martinez’s side. But he remains hopeful of reaching his goal in the future and points to players such as Hans Vanaken, who had to wait until he was 28 for a first cap.

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“I would love to play for the national team one day, of course,” he said. “Everyone’s road is different. Some players in the squad didn’t get called up until they were in their mid-twenties. So the time will come if I’m going to take that step up in my career. But yes, I hope to play for Belgium one day.”

Some of those with whom Bushiri shared a dressing room at youth level will represent Belgium at this World Cup while there are other players on the fringes of the senior squad, such as Alexis Saelemaekers, who the Hibs centre-back has also played alongside.

“There are a few players who I played with in the under-21s. Wout Faes from Leicester, Jeremy Doku (Rennes) is another. There are others too, but those players were in the Euros campaign for the U21s with me,” Bushiri continued.

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“Belgium has a very good record of bringing through young players, we have very good youth academies. And the very good players go straight abroad to the likes of Ajax, or to Germany and to England. Some of our players, at sixteen or seventeen, very early in their careers, experienced the Champions League with Anderlecht – Kevin De Bruyne played with Genk in Europe too. Belgium has been very good in exporting players to other countries and other leagues, and that has helped the national team.”

Belgium play Canada in their first World Cup group match on Wednesday but Bushiri knows it won’t be an easy ride in Qatar. However, he is backing his compatriots to do what previous squads couldn’t.

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Rocky Bushiri hopes to one day recognise his Belgium international dream

“I think this will be the last big tournament for this group of players. A lot of the younger players will come through and play more, I think, and more of the senior players will focus on their clubs instead of the national team and retire from international duty,” he said.

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“This time, maybe more than ever, there is loads of pressure because it could be the last chance for some players. This has been a very special generation and back home people believed we would be good enough to win a trophy. It hasn’t happened yet; the team has been close, but it has to happen now.

“We have the big players to do it, players who are in very good form. There are a lot of big countries going to the World Cup so it will be hard, but the country believes. The expectation is still there that we can do something special.”

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Late bloomer: Belgium's Hans Vanaken wasn't capped until he was 28 years old
The Belgium World Cup squad train in Kuwait prior to the start of the tournament
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Bushiri in action for Belgium Under-21s against Germany's Mergim Berisha in Freiburg im Breisgau in November 2019