Belgium manager Marc Wilmots: I would rather face Spain or England in last 16 than Hungary

Belgium boss Marc Wilmots has perhaps surprisingly admitted that he would rather see his side face reigning European champions Spain or England in the last 16 as opposed to their actual opponents, Group F winners Hungary.

Belgium manager Marc Wilmots: I would rather face Spain or England in last 16 than Hungary
(Picture: Getty Images)

Reigning European champions Spain or England would make for more welcome Euro 2016 opponents than Hungary in the Round of 16, according to Belgium manager Marc Wilmots.

The Red Devils face their first knockout match in the competition since 1980 in Toulouse on Sunday, but Wilmots says that he'd rather be up against a more-favoured side than Bernd Storck's men, because all the pressure is on his side to win comfortably.

Belgium finished as runners-up in Group E behind first-placed Italy, whom they lost to in their opening game before registering back-to-back wins over Republic of Ireland and Sweden.

The Hungarians, meanwhile, emerged as the tournament's dark horses as their disciplined and well-organised performances saw them go unbeaten to top a group containing Portugal, Iceland and Austria.

Ironically, finishing second in their group meant that Belgium avoided a last-16 tie with Spain, and guaranteed that they will avoid the defending champions, as well as world champions Germany and hosts France until the final - should they get there.

But tipped as such overwhelming favourites to beat Hungary, Wilmots insists the pressure and expectation on his side mean facing the Spain or Roy Hodgson's Three Lions would actually be more preferable.

He told reporters that he would "rather play against England and Spain that versus Hungary" because the Belgians "would have nothing to lose against those teams."

The boss accused the press of speaking as if their clash with Group F winners Hungary will be "a walkover" and said: "Did people not see them play against Portugal? There are no more small teams in international football."

Hungary, at their first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup, have plenty of talent throughout their ranks, which Wilmots refuses to overlook. "Balazs Dzsudzsak, Adam Szalai, Krisztian Nemeth... [they have] lots of top players," he said.

We'll treat Hungary with respect, insists Wilmots

Wilmots addresses the press in a press conference in Toulouse earlier this week. (Picture: Getty Images)
Wilmots addresses the press in a press conference in Toulouse earlier this week. (Picture: Getty Images)

He also insisted that the press were "laughing" after Belgium's defeat to Wales in the European Championship qualifiers, before continuing: "But look where they are now. There are no so-called small countries anymore. There are no easy games."

Nevertheless, the 47-year-old - who earned 70 caps for Belgium in his playing days - does not expect all the pre-match anticipation of his side to have any impact on their performance.

Rather, he accepted it as "normal" that "the pressure is there" because they as a nation are "considered to be one of the five big teams" at the competition.

But he insisted that his team "will play Hungary with the same focus" they would show when they play "any so-called big nation" and added: "Each one of my players knows what I expect from them."

Even still, Wilmots warns that their opponents - who were the joint-top scorers in the group stages in netting six in three games - are not to be taken lightly.

As has proven a common theme throughout Euro 2016 so far, the boss expects that "every game will be tight right until the final whistle" and said reputations must not fool people because "the only way to judge a team is to look at their collective."

Belgium will be without midfielder Mousa Dembele against Hungary, with the Tottenham Hotspur man yet to fully recover from an ankle problem sustained against Ireland. In his place, Radja Nainggolan is expected to start alongside Axel Witsel.